Have The Mets Turned the Corner?

New York- A four-game winning streak for the New York Mets and you ask, does that provide a legitimate reason of contention that they are beginning to turn things around? For the moment, especially with a win against Atlanta, and three wins over the Yankees, there is optimism.

Added to the equation, the Mets go for a four-game series sweep, or two consecutive two game sweeps tomorrow night in the Bronx. Then, it is three games down in Miami with the Marlins, a team that continues to tumble with the second worst record in baseball.

The mood in the visitor’s clubhouse Wednesday evening, after the Mets third straight win over the Yankees, to say the least exhibited optimism.  The tide has changed from a week ago when a timely hit, scoring runs and good pitching was hard to find.

“We’ve won three very important ballgames in a row,” said Collins. “There is a different attitude in the clubhouse.” Because the Mets have put a string of wins together and doing it against the Yankees made it more fun in that clubhouse.

It could be the start of the summer for the Mets, according to Collins, alluding to how important it was to win these games against the Yankees.

And with Ruben Tejada and Ike Davis, a part of their infield on thin ice, it was so important for them to be a part of that five-run first inning that quickly put the Mets ahead.  Tejada led off the game with a single and would score on a Daniel Murphy double.

“Nice to get some runs early especially against this team,” commented Davis. He drove the ball the other way in that first inning.

He said, “If I can keep getting better at bats, I can turn this around. We have a better team than we have showed and we can turn this around.” And it has to be Davis and the bat to turn the season around.

Collins said, David Wright referred to Davis as the guy who can turn it around.  There is some type of optimism because Davis struck out once after 24 strikeouts in his last 16- games.

Tejada did get hurt in the ninth inning, so he is staying put for the moment.  He may miss a few games pending an X-Ray to a quad injury he sustained sliding for a ball down the third base line with two outs in the Yankees ninth inning.

“If we have any chance to win here, Ike Davis has to be hitting in the lineup,” said Collins. Lucas Duda and John Buck also got hits going the other way. Again, Collins said this was a big series.

Perhaps, a bigger part of this being an important series is because the Mets have started to hit the ball with more authority. “And they are doing it against the Yankees.

Later in the inning, Davis, with that .152 average would single to left center and drive in two of those five runs. Davis got some batting tips from manager Terry Collins before the game.  Mets fans can’t remember the last game when he drove in two important runs, even if it was early in the game.

Jermey Hefner, with that 0-5 record coming in, had runs to work with and finally got a win. And to him that must have been, as they say, a gift from heaven,

“Important to win, more importantly to keep our team winning,” said Hefner who broke the streak of not getting a win a day after the ace Matt Harvey gets the ball.

What it means is, the Mets will in all probability continue to struggle. The important thing is to continue this renewed momentum with three games down in Miami. But, as the captain David Wright said Tuesday night, at Citi Field in Flushing Queens, “We have a hard time capitalizing on games like this.”

Meaning, as Wright insinuated, the two Mets come from behind wins against the Yankees, Monday and Tuesday in their home park had to continue some type of momentum.

Wednesday night, the Mets continued that brand of good baseball with good pitching, timely hitting, and hitting quality pitches. They did not swing for the fences. They hit at the right time, and it meant another win against a Yankees team that has not resembled the Bronx Bombers they have faced in the past.

Davis handled the sinker much better thrown by David Phelps, and was more comfortable at the plate. Tejada started the onslaught in that first inning. Perhaps, the private meeting with Collins had with Davis and Tejada earlier in the day, where he reportedly told them, they were close to being demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas was the beginning of a remedy?

After all, who wants to play baseball in Las Vegas with the famed strip in the background instead of the Empire State Building and other New York City landmarks?

It went down as a two-game series sweep in Queens and a revival of sorts for the Mets in Queens. They go for another two-game series sweep tomorrow night in the Bronx

And, doing it against the mighty cross- town Yankees does not necessarily mean it won’t be as gloomy in Flushing as we have seen. But, time will tell.

Comment Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Ballgames, Bats, Clubhouse, Contention, Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Game Series, Game Sweeps, Game Winning Streak, Legitimate Reason, Marlins, New York Mets, Optimism, Rich Mancuso, Ruben, Tejada, Thin Ice, Three Games, Tomorrow Night, Top Story, Wednesday Evening

Mets Need To Do Something With Ike

Flushing, NY – Before the season if you said ‘51’ to Ike Davis, he would probably think that’s the number of homers he would have this season.

Come next week, ‘51’ will be the name of his team.

Davis looks terrible at the plate, swinging pitches out of the zone for his first two at bats tonight making him halfway to the Golden Sombrero.  It’s just an example of a player that who it and because the Mets are not performing as a whole, Davis has become public enemy No. 1 at Citi Field with the daily chatter about his woes.

“It’s certainly tough on Ike. At this level, every player puts an added amount of pressure on themselves when they’re the go-to guys,” manager Terry Collins said.  “Now, with all the focus and all the questions, there’s even more pressure on Ike. And that’s why we’ve tried to take a little bit off with the conversation Sandy [Alderson] had last week in Chicago with him, to try to ease his mind a little bit — ‘Hey, look, focus on the game. Don’t focus on the stuff off the field.’ That’s why I took him out of the fourth hole. He’s got enough heat on him, let alone hit in the fourth hole and struggle.”

If he doesn’t perform, Davis will be sent to the minors. It’s just a matter of time. It may even be an indictment on the Mets that he is still starting at first base, because they just don’t have anyone else.

However, that’s not true either according to Collins, who said they do have options. “Have we discussed them? No, because he’s the first baseman still,” Collins explained.  “But you’ve got Lucas, you’ve got Dan Murphy, you’ve got Justin Turner. We’ve got options. But no one has discussed anything about any replacements yet.”

Even with no true replacement, the Mets have to do something. With Ruben Tejada hitting .211 going into tonight’s game, the team has a bottom third of the lineup with what could be considered automatic outs, which isn’t going to help the team win any games. They can get by with Tejada not hitting because of his defense, but need offensive production out of first base, especially streaky lineup the Mets tend to produce.

What about accountability? Collins came in two and a half years ago preaching the players will be held accountable but what kind of message does it send when you trot Davis out there day after day? What kind of message is it sending to the Mets younger players?

Yet, Davis’s play is screaming “Vegas Baby” and unless he has a huge weekend, won’t be facing his Dad’s former team next week.

And if he goes down, then what’s next for Ike?

“I’ve had a few players of Ike’s stature that came back to the minor leagues,” Collins said. “And I used to tell them: Look, you’ve got 24 hours to be unhappy. And, after that, your job is to get back. You have two choices: They’re either going to be right by sending you down or they’re going to be wrong by sending you down. What do you want to do? Now, we’ve got to go to work. Complain, do all the stuff you want to do for 24 hours. And then we’ve got to get back to work.

“Obviously, in this situation, where we’re going to Vegas, it could be that Ike Davis hits five fly balls and hits five home runs. Does that mean he’s ready to come back? I don’t know. If he is sent out, the reports have got to be his swing is more consistent. He’s driving balls to left field, left-center field, staying on the ball better, not swinging at balls out of the strike zone. Those types of things are the reports you want to hear. But in the development of those types of guys, the first thing you have to do is make sure their mind is right. ‘I got off to a bad start. I’ve got to fix it. Let’s go get it fixed and I’ll get back there.’ …

“Sometimes you send them to a place like Vegas, that confidence will come back in a hurry. I’ve seen some guys go down there and hit the ball pretty good and all of a sudden, ‘Boy, I’m ready now.’ … But in Ike’s case, I don’t want, if something should happen and he goes to Vegas, to look up and have him hit a home run tonight and a home run tomorrow and a home run the next day and all of a sudden say, ‘He’s back.’ I think the process is going to be a little longer than that.”

Well, maybe Davis is an Elvis fan. Viva Las Vegas.

Posted under Bats, First Baseman, Fourth Hole, Homers, Joe Mcdonald, Mets, New York Mets, Pitches, Public Enemy, Public Enemy No 1, Sandy Alderson, Struggle, Tejada, Top Story, Wit

Right now the outfield combination is a guess that works for the Mets

New York – Friday night at Citi Field in the New York Mets outfield, Mike Baxter got the start in right field, Lucas Duda was in left, Jordany Valdespin in center. It has been common not to expect the same everyday outfield combination in the lineup put together by manager Terry Collins.

It could cause some issues, but not in the Mets clubhouse. Everyone seems to be content with their playing time. What matters most, Collins is trying to find the right combination that can produce some runs in the lineup. And, if Valdespin keeps coming off big, as he did Wednesday night with a walk-off game winning grand slam home run, he could be in the outfield every day.

However, Collins will not commit to who plays where. As he makes out the lineup a lot has to do also with righty against lefty, and who may have the upper hand. Except Mets fans are becoming acclimated to seeing Valdespin come up big, who can also fill some holes in the infield.

“I took the one guy who has a .400 on base in Mike Baxter and said if we can get him on, we got a guy at number 2 who can handle the bat, and hit behind runners, and hit in the holes and bunt and do the little things,” commented Collins about inserting Baxter in right at the top of the order Friday night.

Baxter was followed in the order by Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy, and David Wright, and then came Duda.  The Mets come to the ballpark and it does matter where, when, or if or not they are in the lineup.

The outfield has learned to work as a unit and in the end it comes down to winning ballgames.

Yes, Sandy Alderson, the general manager suggested to Collins to insert Wright fifth in the order.  The Mets captain, before getting injured, drove home 10-runs in the World Baseball Classic. The outfield, though, that is the discretion of the Mets manager.

“He led off for us last year, he knows what he is doing,” said Collins about inserting Baxter in that role Friday night as the Mets dropped the first of a three-game series to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Baxter struck out once and went hitless in four at bats. In the third inning, he also lost a ball in right field that was ruled a double of the bat of Lance Nix.

“It was the twilight out there, hard to read,” commented Baxter about the mixed ball. He said it had nothing to do with the limited playing time out in right, or coming off the bench as a role player.

As for going hitless at the plate, Baxter and the Mets can blame Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick who shut out the Mets for the first time this season limiting them to three hits. Kendrick did not allow a runner to second base after the first inning.

Simply put, Collins is aware that he has to get his guys playing time and find a proper role for them. Baxter, as with rookie Juan Lagares, will get the time. The 24-year old Lagares of the Dominican Republic was called up from Triple-A Las Vegas Tuesday and recorded his first Major League base hit coming off the bench.

The attitude of Lagares, it fits in with the rest of that crowded outfield. “I am going to try and be here and do whatever they need me to do here, come here to work hard everyday  ” he said after getting his first start in center Wednesday night against the Dodgers.

But in a matter of time, Collins and the Mets should have that outfield set. In the meantime, when the Mets outfield arrives at Citi Field early Saturday morning for another game with the Phillies, as has been the case, they will look on the board and see if their name is in the starting lineup.

“We will come out tomorrow and give it another try,” said Baxter.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

 

Posted under Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Dro, Lefty, Mets Clubhouse, Mets Fans, Mets New York, Mike Baxter, New York Mets, Outfield, Playing Time, Right Combination, Ruben, Runners, Sandy Alderson, Tejada, Top Story, Wednesday Night

Not everything was great out of the pen for Francisco in a close call as Mets beat Braves

Jonathon Niese was cruising along at Citi Field Sunday night. The New York Mets starter pitched eight effective innings, allowed one run and struck out six Atlanta Braves. And then the call to the bullpen and everything went wrong, but, according to closer Frank Francisco, everything went right.

Francisco, who has had his problems closing games, making his second appearance since coming off the disabled list Friday, was ineffective. He walked two with the bases loaded in the ninth, and gave up a two-run double to Martin Prado.

He squandered a 6-1 lead, could not find the strike zone and gave the ball to Jon Rauch with the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on second. Afterwards, as the Mets dressed and left town with a 6-5 win, losing two of three to Atlanta, Francisco could not be serious.

“They wore me out a little bit, and I’m a little bit out of shape,” said Francisco. That was the serious part. After that, you wonder how much Francisco is serious about being an effective closer.

A major part of the Mets second half collapse has been their inability to drive in runs with two outs, and ineffective starting pitching. Sunday night, Niese (9-6) bounced back from a bad outing against the Marlins on Tuesday.

As the Mets did so effectively in the first half, Ruben Tejada and Ike Davis drove in a run apiece with two outs. Thursday, in their only win against the Marlins, R.A. Dickey got the complete game win, his 15th, and New York drove in five of their six runs with two out hits.

Jordany Valdespin continued to make an impression with manager Terry Collins. Inserted in left field, Valdespin hit a solo home run in the sixth inning, his eighth off losing pitcher Ben Sheets (4-2) that built a 5-1  lead. Collins intends to give him more playing time.

“I appreciate the opportunity to be given the chance and show why I can play here,” said Valdespin about a role in the outfield and also being used in the infield.

However, a constant for the Mets woes is having the most ineffective pen in the game. Before Francisco got the ball, rookie Josh Edgin got the call. He walked two and hit a batter. Francisco could not get the third out and Rauch put out the fire when Jason Heyward swung and missed a slider in the dirt.

But, according to Francisco, the Mets got a win and everything is alright.

The closer, after his comments Sunday night may be the laughing stock of New York baseball. He could not provide the proper answer as to his inability to throw strikes, and make it easy for his manager Terry Collins and those left in the crowd of 24, 891.

“We got a win, that’s the important thing, “commented Francisco about his shaky outing. And then, he ridiculed media by his locker when he said, “It was easy. I’m a bit out of shape. I just got tired. I feel great. You know why, I feel good. That’s it, no more questions?”

Of course, no more questions because Francisco can’t give the answers. Niese watched from the dugout hoping it was not another collapse.

“That was tough,” he said. “I can’t sugarcoat that by any means. But they got the job done,” commenting about the pen, “and that’s all that matters.”

And Collins, looking forward to a day off in Cincinnati Monday, before New York begins a three-game series with the NL Central leading Reds, needed the win. Then it is three more at NL east leading Washington.

It was the Mets ninth win in their last 30 games that has put them out of contention.

“We needed this, we have not played well,” said Collins. “I am not making any excuses. We have not played well on any side of the ball. So this win helped. I don’t care how It came about. I’m glad to get it.”

And for Francisco, apparently he does not care how the win came. The Mets won, however, their closer, ineffective as he was, said he feels good. Though Mets fans, and Collins can’t continue to have that good feeling about his inability to close games.
e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com and at facebook.com/Keep It in the Ring.

Posted under Atlanta Braves, Bullpen, Collapse, Complete Game, Jonathon Niese, Marlins, New York Mets, Outfield, Playing Time, Second Half, Sixth Inning, Strike Zone, Tejada, Top Story

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on August 13, 2012

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Delcos: Five Questions for The Mets

When pitchers and catchers reported Feb. 18, I posted five key questions the Mets faced heading into the season. Let’s revisit those questions at the All-Star break.

1) Question: What is this team’s attitude?

Assessment: By all accounts, it has been superb. There is a different chemistry in the Mets clubhouse than I have previously seen. The Mets have shown a remarkable resiliency to bounce back from adversity and Sunday’s win is just another example. There have been no issues about a lack of hustle, and no finger pointing. Both Jeff Francoeur and Angel Pagan said the right things about the prospect of reduced playing time as Carlos Beltran is about to be activated from the disabled list. The only sour note was, surprise, Oliver Perez’s refusal to accept a minor league assignment, instead, waiting for the disabled list to leave the roster to work on his issues.

2) Question: How healthy is this team?

Assessment: Injuries sabotaged the 2009 season, and injuries have cost Beltran and Daniel Murphy in the first half, and Jose Reyes for nearly a month. Beltran is due back to start the second half, but there’s no timetable for the return of Murphy, who reinjured his knee while on a rehab assignment. Murphy was playing second base at the time in preparation for a position change. After treating Reyes with kid gloves in the wake of his thyroid issue, the Mets rushed him back from an oblique injury, which he aggravated Saturday. There’s no telling how long he’ll be out. Luis Castillo is on the disabled list and his is another injury where the Mets tried to have him play through. Fortunately, his replacement, Ruben Tejada, has been more than filled the void. Reliever Kelvim Escobar, penciled in as a set-up man, is out for the year with a shoulder injury. The Mets are still trying to find an eighth-inning solution. Oliver Perez and John Maine are currently on the disabled list.

3) Question: What is the status of the three pitching questions, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and John Maine?

Assessment: Pelfrey made a point of saying he understood this trio represented a significant key to the Mets’ success this season. Perez and Maine are on the disabled list, but the team upgraded with R.A. Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi. Pelfrey was superb for much of the first half but has been going through a dead arm period and has been largely ineffective over his last five starts. Perez balked at a minor league assignment, but an injury was found that conveniently landed him on the disabled list. He has been sound, and somewhat effective, in his rehab assignment. Look for the Mets to activate him shortly after the break and send Takahashi back to the bullpen. There’s no timetable for Maine’s return.

4) Question: Who is fifth starter?

Assessment: Fernando Nieve, Jon Niese, Nelson Figueroa and Hisanori Takahashi were in the mix in the spring, but Niese won the job and has been very good since coming off the disabled list. Niese has been so good that management tabbed him untouchable when Seattle asked for him in trade discussions surrounding Cliff Lee. Figueroa is now in Philadelphia, while Nieve is in the bullpen. Takahashi replaced Perez in the rotation and pitched well at first, but clearly showed he’s more valuable in the bullpen. The Mets are searching for a fifth starter in the trade market, as there are lingering questions about Perez and Maine.

5) Question: What is the make-up of the bullpen?

Assessment: Jenrry Mejia went north in the pen in an undefined role, but eventually went to the minor leagues to work on being a starter, when he was injured. Losing Escobar went a large part in opening the door for Mejia, who threw hard, but never grasped the eighth-inning role. Bobby Parnell, who appeared to wash you last year, now appears to be the arm having the inside track in the eighth inning to start the second half. Ryota Igarashi was the guy at one time, but pulled a hamstring and hasn’t been the same since. He’s now in the minor leagues. Nieve and Pedro Feliciano were over worked early, and still have heavy workloads. The distribution of work should be improved when Takahashi goes back to the bullpen.

John Delcos has covered Major League Baseball for over 20 years, including more than ten in New York on the Yankees and Mets beats. You can read Delcos on his blog, http://www.newyorkmetsreport.com, where he hosts a chat room for each Mets game.

Posted under Attitude Assessment, Carlos Beltran, Daniel Murphy, Eighth Inning, Jeff Francoeur, John Delcos, Jose Reyes, Kelvim Escobar, Kid Gloves, Luis Castillo, Mets Clubhouse, Minor League, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Pitchers And Catchers, Playing Time, Position Change, Rehab Assignment, Remarkable Resiliency, Shoulder Injury, Team Assessment, Tejada, Top Story

This post was written by John Delcos on July 13, 2010