Friday, May 31, 2013

Game #51: Mets 3, Yankees 1

Four words that have saved this lost season, words Mets fans thought they would never get to read: We. Swept. The. Yankees.

Marlon Byrd's two-run bomb in the 2nd was enough for Dillon Gee's best start of the year as the Mets swept the 2013 Subway Series for the first time, beating the Yankees 3-1.

The Good Stuff:
  • Last night, Marlon Byrd took advantage of Yankee Stadium's launching pad with a cheap can-of-corn of a home run. Tonight's home run? A little more expensive. Byrd blasted a two-run upper deck shot in the top of the 2nd off Yankee starter Vidal Nuno to give the NL New Yorkers an early 2-0 cushion.
  • An insurance run came on a John Buck single (and stolen base!) in the top of the 8th. Not that Dillon Gee needed it: Gee turned in one of the finest starts of his career, going 7.1 innings and allowing one run (a solo shot by Robinson Cano in the 3rd) on four hits, no walks, and a whopping 12 strikeouts.
  • Scott Rice finished off the 8th inning, and Bobby Parnell diffused the Bronx Bombers for good with a 1-2-3 9th, prompting the Mets partisans of the 44,207 in attendance to break out their brooms.
The Bad Stuff:
Final Analysis:
In the 16 previous editions of the Mets-Yankees Subway Series, only once has either team swept every game of the season: the last-place Mets lost every game to the pennant-winning Yankees in 2003. Now, ten years later, we were due for another sweep. Except this time it was the near-last place Mets winning every game against the then-first place Yankees.

How. Did. We. Do. That. ?.

How did it all get in sync so fast? How did these New York Mets suddenly put together quality starts, clutch hitting, and lockdown relief all at once? How did they manage it against their hated intercity rivals? Maybe it turns out these New York Yankees aren't very good; most of their starters are old stopgaps to replace their old stars, after all. Or maybe these New York Mets aren't as bad as they were made out to be. Now they've got history under their belts and a five-game winning streak to boot. A winning streak that should, by the way, extend by a game or two this weekend in Miami.

I've accepted that this is a lost season. None of that matters now because this week has defined the whole year. In 2011, it was Jose Reyes's batting title. In 2012, it was Johan Santana's no-hitter and R.A. Dickey's Cy Young. In 2013, it was the sweep in the Subway Series. I'm cool with that. Simply Amazin'.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Game #50: Mets 9, Yankees 4

Walk-offs are fun. You know what else is fun? Blowouts at the expense of your rival in their building. Oh my.

Ike Davis's two-run single capped a five-run 1st inning as the Mets never looked back, beating the Yankees 9-4 and clinching their first Subway Series win since 2008.

The Good Stuff:
  • Ruben Tejada got things going in the top of the 1st with a single off David Phelps and came around on Daniel Murphy's RBI double. After David Wright walked and Lucas Duda struck out, a second run came home on John Buck's RBI single. Rick Ankiel walked to load the bases, and while Marlon Byrd grounded into what should have been a double play, it turned into a third run when Jayson Nix booted it. Ike Davis was up next and hammered the nail in Phelps's coffin with a two-run single. When the dust settled and Phelps was relieved, the NL New Yorkers had a 5-0 lead over their AL rivals.
  • What a relief it must have been to Jeremy Hefner, who threw his first pitch with the game already in hand. Hefner earned his first W of the season (and the Mets' first win in one of his starts) with a three-run, nine-hit, six-inning outing, complete with no walks and five strikeouts.
  • More offensive prowess was showed in later innings: Byrd took advantage of the Little League ballpark that is Yankee Stadium with a solo homer to right in the 3rd, while Duda drove in two more with an opposite-field double in the 4th. Ankiel drove in the final run on an RBI single in the 9th.
  • Gary Cohen had a fine game in the broadcast booth, charming the SNY audience on two separate occasions:
    • When Travis Hafner came up to face Jeremy Hefner in the bottom of the 1st, Cohen channeled David Letterman at the 1995 Oscars with an "Oprah, Uma" moment.
    • In the bottom of the 7th, Gare introduced the Mets' oft-used reliever as Scott "Every Minute" Rice. Well done, sir. Well done.
The Bad Stuff:
Final Analysis:
All of a sudden, everything is firing on all cylinders: 12 hits, quality starting pitching, a bullpen that holds leads. The result is a four-game winning streak, including three over the big, bad New York Yankees. Who are these guys?

Great to see another quality outing from Jeremy Hefner, who is quietly establishing himself as the Mets' third-best starting pitcher. It's especially nice to see him doing so well in the face of the immense tragedy of seeing his Oklahoma hometown ripped apart by last week's tornado.

With some sudden momentum going in their direction for once, the New York Mets will go into tomorrow night's Yankee Stadium finale attempting to do something they have never done before: sweep the New York Yankees in the Subway Series. This could make the season right here. Whoa baby.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Game #49: Mets 2, Yankees 1

Who would have guessed that whole "Mariano Rivera throws out the first pitch" thing turned out to be a scouting strategy?

The Mets got three hits off the Sandman in his final appearance in Flushing, as Lucas Duda's walk-off single led his team to another 2-1, come-from-behind victory over the Yankees.

The Good Stuff:
  • Down 1-0 in the 9th, things looked bleak for the NL New Yorkers as they faced the greatest closer of all-time, who at age 43 still shows no sign of slowing down. But just for one night, Mariano Rivera looked like a man on the precipice of retirement, as he blew a save for the first time all season.
    • Daniel Murphy led off with the Mets' only extra-base hit of the night, a double down the left field line. That brought up David Wright, who lined a shot just out of reach of the shortstop (and just inches behind the baserunning Murphy). Murph raced around and beat the throw from centerfielder Brett Gardner (who robbed him of another long hit tonight - a second last laugh), and Wright went to second when the throw ricocheted off Murphy and to the backstop. Up came Lucas Duda, who took a jamming 1-1 cutter and looped it into right field to score Wright and send the paid Citi Field crowd of 31,877 into a frenzy. It was the Big Dude's first walk-off hit since he did it off Heath Bell in August 2011, and it earned him not one but TWO whipped cream pies in the face (Ruben Tejada joined Justin Turner for the double take).
  • "Attention, patrons: tonight, the part of jilted Mets ace will be played by Matt Harvey, who will allow just one run on six hits in eight sparkling innings, walking none and striking out 10 on 114 pitches. Unfortunately for the young Mr. Harvey, he will be stacked with yet another no-decision. Better than a loss, though. Carry on."
  • Murphy, Wright, and Duda each had two hits, combining for six of the team's seven on the night.
  • Scott Rice tossed a scoreless 9th for his third W of the season.
The Bad Stuff:
  • If hitters #2-4 picked up six of seven hits, it means that hitters #1 and #5-9 combined to produce only one. That was Rick Ankiel, by the way.
  • Ike Davis went 0-3 with two more strikeouts, restarting talk of an extended weekend in Las Vegas. At least he'll get to see Bradley Cooper.
  • Ruben Tejada was picked off second base to end the 6th when umpire Reid Brignac changed his call mid-motion. Terry Collins went out to argue and was promptly rejected when he did his best "Lou Pinella bobblehead" impression.
Final Analysis:
Some of the finest Mets wins come at the expense of the New York Yankees, and the finest of the fine are when our scrappy bunch is able to chip off a bit of gold dust from the golden closer. You already know this is going to be one of our Top Ten Wins of the Year. That was fun. That was a fun game.

And this is turning out to be a very fun Subway Series! Tomorrow the Mets and their fans hop on the 4-Train and take this orange-and-blue-a-thon to the House That Sits Next To Where The House That Ruth Built Is Now A Parking Lot. Doesn't quite roll off the tongue.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Game #48: Mets 2, Yankees 1

In the battle of the town so nice they named it twice, the home team thought of the same duplicity on late-game comebacks.

Daniel Murphy's line drive up the middle scored the game-winning run in the 8th inning and Bobby Parnell shut the door on the Yankees for a 2-1 Mets win in the opener of this year's Subway Series.

The Good Stuff:
  • Down 1-0 in the bottom of the 7th, David Wright started the scoring by taking Phil Hughes deep (and I mean waaaaay deep). Wright's monstrous solo home run not only tied the game, it would have left the stadium had it not  clunked off the wing of an airplane destined for LaGuardia and settled in the first deck.
  • With one out in the bottom of the 8th, Mike Baxter laced a ground-rule double to start a rally. Jordany Valdespin walked, then the both of them advanced a base when Yankee catcher Chris Stewart couldn't handle a rare strike from David Robertson. Baxter was thrown out at home on Ruben Tejada's ground ball, but that left one out for Daniel Murphy, who was looking for some revenge after his two-run homer in the 6th was stolen at the wall by Brett Gardner. Consider him avenged: Murph ripped a line drive up the middle to score Valdespin for what would be the deciding run.
  • With the lead in his pocket, Bobby Parnell continued to establish himself as a legitimate major-league closer, striking out two Bronx Bombers on the way to a hitless 9th and his eighth save of the season, surpassing his total for all of last season.
  • Like last night, the Mets' runs came late for their outstanding starter. This time it was Jonathon Niese who was stuck with a tough-luck no-decision. Niese's final line was one of his best of the season: 7 innings, 8 hits, 1 earned run, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts on 107 pitches. He also went 2-2 at the plate to bring his average up to .250 (more than that of half the Mets' regulars).
  • The NL New Yorkers turned three more double plays to kill AL New Yorker rallies in the 2nd, 6th, and 8th frames.
The Bad Stuff:
  • Ike Davis regressed against Hughes and Robertson, striking out in all three of his at-bats.
  • Ruben Tejada also went hitless in his four at-bats in his first game back in the leadoff slot.
Final Analysis:
I've been happy to admit I was wrong before, and I'm happy to do it again: Bobby Parnell is a major-league closer. Maybe he picked up a different mindset over the offseason, maybe it's the new knuckle curve (thanks, R.A.); whatever it is, the New York Mets seem to have a legitimate stopper for the first time since Francisco Rodriguez in his first season with the club. The Mets may not be able to give him many leads (he's only had 10 save opportunities in the first two months), but the team can finally rest easy knowing any lead that goes into the 9th has a better chance of staying put than not.

Daniel Murphy continues to hit the cover off the ball, and David Wright may have busted his slump with a two-hit night (the other was a 1st-inning triple). All-in-all, a great way to start the season's only Subway Series. And tomorrow night Matt Harvey looks to keep the party going on national TV.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Game #47: Mets 4, Braves 2

It was a result so unlikely that I don't even know how to begin this piece. you go.

Ike Davis, yes, THAT Ike Davis, hit a two-run single in the bottom of the 8th to give the Mets the lead and the win over the Braves, 4-2 on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.

The Good Stuff:

  • Down 2-1 in the bottom of the 8th, Justin Turner led off with a pinch-hit single up the middle. After a struggling David Wright struck out, Lucas Duda sliced a groundrule double down the left field line. John Buck singled on a line drive to left and brought home the tying run in Turner, and Mike Baxter was hit by the pitch to load the bases. That brought up the man whose very place on the team was at stake, a man who mere days ago was a pitch or two away from an extended Memorial Day trip to Las Vegas. But Ike Davis put all that behind him and swung at a 1-1 sinker that zoomed into right field and plated the go-ahead runs.
    • The two-run single was the apex of a game as good as Ike has had all season: 2-3 with a walk. Tonight in front of a national TV audience he eked out as many hits as he had in his previous 40-something at-bats.
  • The runs came a little late for Shaun Marcum, whose grand effort resulted in a tough no-decision. His final line for the night: 7 innings, 4 hits, 2 earned runs, 0 walks, 12 strikeouts.
  • LaTroy Hawkins earned the W with a scoreless 8th, and Bobby Parnell shut down the Atlanta bats 1-2-3 for his 7th save to send the 27,296 fans at Citi Field, including 3,000+ military personnel on Military Appreciation Night, home happy. Finally.
  • Lucas Duda had the other run of the game, a solo homer that just cleared the wall in right to lead off the 4th.
  • Daniel Murphy started two more double plays on the night, including a key turn in the top of the 8th.
The Bad Stuff:
  • David Wright's slump continued as he went 0-4 to drop his average down to an ordinary .284.
Final Analysis:
Even the collective relief and joy of all Mets fans cannot possibly trump the feelings of relief and joy Ike Davis is experiencing tonight. An enormous burden was lifted from his shoulders with his swing in the 8th inning. Time will tell if this is the moment where he finally turned it around for good, but for the first time all season, Issac Benjamin Davis has some momentum going into tomorrow's game.

It was an utter shame Shaun Marcum couldn't get the win after a brilliant 12-K night where his only mistake was a hanging changeup that Dan Uggla put in the upper deck. Unfortunately, when New York doesn't score runs, pitcher basically have to throw near-perfect games every time out. Matt Harvey learned that lesson a couple weeks ago, and Shaun Marcum learned it tonight in wake of his best start as a Met.

Speaking of Harvey, he has a date with destiny coming up on Tuesday night in the middle of this year's Subway Series. The Mets will split four this week with the hated New York Yankees, two at Citi Field and two at Yankee Stadium. If Matt Harvey wants to affirm himself as one of the best in the game, he'll have to go toe-to-toe with the game's Evil Empire. What a fine matchup it should be.


Games #45 & 46: Braves 7-6, Mets 5-0

Fans at Citi Field today found themselves recipients of a double feature: they were treated to not one but *two* excruciating Mets losses for the price of one. Oh, goody.

Brandon Lyon allowed two runs in the top of the 10th as the Braves won last night's suspended game 7-5, while Dillon Gee's 5th-inning implosion and a serious lack of offense combined to bury the Mets 6-0 in the nationally-televised regularly-scheduled game.

The Bad Stuff:
  • After Jeremy Hefner's great outing on Friday night (see Good Stuff), LaTroy Hawkins let the lead blow up in his face in the 7th, and Scott Rice was no good in the 8th as Atlanta took the lead. New York rallied to tie the game before rain washed out the ending, but after Bobby Parnell's solid 9th to start off Saturday evening's conclusion, Brandon Lyon let in two Braves runs, including one on a B.J. Upton sac bunt, in the top of the 10th.
  • Despite getting the first two runners on against the almighty Craig Kimbrel in the bottom of the 10th, the Mets could not put together another rally, as Ruben Tejada failed to advance the runners with a bad sac bunt and Justin Turner grounded into the game-ending 4-6-3 double play.
  • In the full Saturday game, Dillon Gee looked solid for 4.2 innings. Then a Chris Johnson single eventually led to five Atlanta runs, including a home run by opposing pitcher Mike Minor.
  • The New York (I guess you can call it) "offense" was powerless against Minor, who allowed just three hits and struck out 10 in 7.1 innings.
The Good Stuff:
  • The aforementioned Hefner had one of his best outings of the season, allowing two runs on three hits in six innings, including two walks and seven strikeouts on 94 pitches. Despite being on a roll, Terry Collins removed him from the game before the 7th so "he could feel good about himself."
  • John Buck hit his 11th home run of the year in the first game.
  • Daniel Murphy went 3-4 in the first game with two runs and a key RBI during the 8th-inning comeback.
  • Ruben Tejada scored the tying run of the first game on a wild pitch in the 8th and followed up with three hits in the second.
  • Following a "golden sombrero" (four strikeouts) on Friday night, Ike Davis actually kept the 10th-inning rally going with a single of Kimbrel, his first hit in what seems like a career and a half.
  • While the game was broadcast on FOX, it may not have been completely national: in Indiana at least, they showed us the Cardinals-Dodgers game. So maybe it wasn't the whole country who saw how much we suck. Come tomorrow night on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, though...
Final Analysis:
There is only one word I can use to describe this team, which has now lost five straight and 11 of 14: Ew. Just ew. Nothing is going right for anyone, and even when it does for a moment, the team snuffs out its own success. And Terry Collins's reason for removing Hefner? Pretty lame.

You have to now start wondering whether the New York Mets will be the worst team in baseball in 2013. With the Marlins and Astros struggling so mightily, such a feat would have been hard to believe. All I can say about that is it's a double-edged sword: we will be terrible this year, but we won't even get the top pick in the 2014 MLB Draft. What a gyp.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Game #44: Reds 7, Mets 4

If I told you one of the Mets' undefeated fireballers was going to get his first black mark of the season, you'd be disappointed. If I told you both of them deserved, I'd be telling you about this afternoon.

Matt Harvey had his worst outing of the season, but the game wasn't lost until Bobby Parnell oversaw three runs in the 9th as the Reds swept the Mets 7-4.

The Bad Stuff:
  • Matt Harvey was far from the top of his game this afternoon, allowing a season-high four runs on a career-high nine hits in 6.1 innings, walking three and striking out six. In the grand scheme of things, far from the worst any of the Mets' starters have put up in 2013, but when you consider this is Harvey and not Dillon Gee we're talking about, then it gets pretty disturbing.
  • Against all odds, New York got to Cincinnati's Mat Latos in the same way, and the game was tied 4-4 going into the 9th inning. But Bobby Parnell gave up a leadoff double to a hustling Shin-Soo Choo, who went to third on a groundout. After Joey Votto was walked, Brandon Phillips chopped a groundball that snuck fair past an awkwardly-positioned Ike Davis and turned into a generous two-run double. A third run came in shortly thereafter.
  • The 3-8 hitters in New York's batting order combined to go 3-22 with all six of the team's strikeouts.
  • David Wright has gotten himself into a slump at the plate, going 0-4 today to make it 2-19 in his last five games.
The Good Stuff:
  • Daniel Murphy and Rick Ankiel combined for a killer 1-2 punch, each going 3-4 two RBIs. Ankiel was especially potent, picking up a triple to go along with his two doubles.
  • Again, low strikeout totals for the Mets on the day. Plus two of them came against Aroldis Chapman, so really it's just like four Ks.
Final Analysis:
Remember that momentum that came with winning three of four on the road? Like Sting, consider it gone.

The Mets need the gift of a rare off day at home tomorrow. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Ike Davis took an extended Memorial Day vacation in the next 48 hours.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Game #43: Reds 4, Mets 0

On a bad baseball club, no one is immune from team-crushing errors. Not even the Captain himself.

David Wright's two-out error in the top of the 1st led to three unearned Reds runs as the Mets dug themselves in deep, 4-0.

The Bad Stuff:
  • After getting through the first two batters with ease, Jonathon Niese loaded the bases on a single and two walks. That should have been all the trouble as Todd Frazier hit a hard groundball to third base, but David Wright lifted his glove just a moment too soon, and the ball skipped right between his legs. The error itself led to two Cincinnati runs, and one more scored when Niese allowed another single and walked Devin Mesoraco with the bases loaded. The error was so unexpected it had the Reds' announcers almost stunned at the misfortune of, as they put it, "one of the best third basemen in the game."
  • I know that last quote because I saw it on's highlights of the game, of which there were two. The mere fact of two highlights for an entire nine-inning baseball game is enough to be listed as Bad Stuff.
  • The other highlight was a solo home run by the same Mesoraco to lead off the top of the 9th against Collin McHugh, driving one more nail into a coffin whose contents were already DOA.
  • Cause of Death: three hits, 0-4 RISP, six left on.
  • Ike Davis. Period. But at least he didn't strike out tonight, so maybe that should be under Good Stuff...
The Good Stuff:
  • Ike Davis made contact in all three of his at-bats tonight.
  • In fact, the Mets as a team only struck out seven times in the whole game, with no one fanning more than once.
  • Jonathon Niese lasted six innings and aside from the 1st pitched rather well, allowing no earned runs on five hits while walking three and striking out seven.
Final Analysis:
It was the kind of game where one of New York's highlights was how little they struck out. Good night, America.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Game #42: Reds 4, Mets 3

Byrd is the Word, but Bruce is the Boss.

Jay Bruce's solo home run reestablished the Reds' lead in the 6th, and the Mets couldn't fight back again, falling 4-3 in the series opener.

The Bad Stuff:
  • The Redlegs got three runs in the top of the 1st off Shaun Marcum, as Brandon Phillips drove in two on a single and was driven in himself by Jay Bruce's double one batter later.
    • Another low-light for Ike Davis came in that inning on what would become Joey Votto's "ground-rule double" - as Votto's base hit popped over the bag, a lackadaisical Ike got in the way of Votto's path, prompting an interference error charged to a man who only seems to make errors (at the plate, in the field, in his head). Not surprisingly, Davis went 0-3 with a couple more strikeouts.

  • Marcum's next and final mistake came on the first pitch of the 6th inning as Bruce continued his own hot streak by blasting a changeup into the right field stands, providing the difference for the visitors.
  • The Mets couldn't figure out the Cincy bullpen, and Cuban Missile Aroldis Chapman sat them down 1-2-3 in the 9th, striking out John Buck and Justin Turner and never seeing his fastball dip below 97 mph.
  • Daniel Murphy went 0-4 in his second straight game batting leadoff.
The Good Stuff:
  • After a rough 1st, Marcum was relatively solid, lasting six innings and allowing the four runs on six hits, walking no one after the first batter and striking out seven.
  • Rick Ankiel singled to lead off the 3rd, then after a David Wright walk and Lucas Duda strikeout, Marlon Byrd socked a line drive over the former Great Wall of Flushing for a game-tying three-run homer.
  • New York forced out Cincinnati ace Johnny Cueto after just five innings.
Final Analysis:
Overall, not a bad ballgame for the team on the losing end. One-run losses sting, but at least they are devoid of the disheartening thud that comes with a blowout. Shaun Marcum took another step forward tonight, while Ike Davis took two more steps back. The only thing that saved him from demotion last year was his fielding skills; now even those are failing him. I really hate to turn on the guy, but he's got to go.

Rick Ankiel has been surprisingly steady since his acquisition; sure, he strikes out a lot, but he's been better than most other outfielders at the plate, and his defense is stellar. Doesn't that seem to be the theme with Mets center fielders? Flashy glove, holes in the bat (see Matt den Dekker, Juan Lagares). At this point I wouldn't care if we got a guy with clay for hands, just as long as he exposed the clay hands of half the outfield fans every other day. I'm all about small ball and doubles, but is it too much to ask for just one quality power bat?


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Game #41: Mets 4, Cubs 3

In today's contest of the hapless, it wasn't one team giving it to the other. This time, the team from New York took it by force.

Daniel Murphy's solo shot in the 8th provided the go-ahead run, and Bobby Parnell topped off four perfect innings from the bullpen, as the Mets waltzed out of Wrigleyville with a 4-3 win over the Cubs.

The Good Stuff:
  • David Wright got the scoring going in the top of the 6th with an RBI single.
  • Down 3-1 in the 7th, Ruben Tejada dropped a two-out Texas-League base hit to bring up Juan Lagares, who pounded his first big-league home run to the back row of bleachers.
    • Lagares also had himself a double in the top of the 3rd; the hits on the day were his second and third XBHs of his career, and the home run gave him his first two RBIs.
  • In the next inning, newly-installed leadoff hitter Daniel Murphy overcame an 0-3 start and fired a rocket to right center to put the Mets on top. It was Murph's fourth home run in his last four games at the National League's Grand Old Lady.
  • Murphy's laser stood up for Scott Rice, who had half of the Mets' bullpen's four innings of perfect relief. Greg Burke bailed out Dillon Gee by sitting the Cubs down 1-2-3 in the 6th, then Rice took Chicago six up, six down in the 7th and 8th.
  • Bobby Parnell put the nail in the coffin with a blistering 9th, sending up the home team's "L" flag with his third save of the road trip.
The Bad Stuff:
  • Dillon Gee continued to be a five-inning starter, allowing three runs on eight hits and not getting a single out in the 6th.
Final Analysis:
What's this - a hot streak for our Mets? Since dropping six in a row, the Amazin's have pulled off three wins in their past four games. Murphy and Wright continue their respective tears, and Bobby Parnell finally seems comfortable in the closer role. Will this good fortune last? That remains to be seen, but for now at least, a handful of pieces are falling into place.

Another piece falling into place: another ace is approaching the big ball club, as Rafael Montero was just promoted to Triple-A Las Vegas. Imagine, if you will, a near-future rotation consisting of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard, and Jonathon Niese. Scary good.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Game #40: Cubs 8, Mets 2

In matches up hapless vs. hapless, it often becomes a sort of contest of generosity: each team is insistent on the other taking their win. I'm a Purdue Boilermaker football fan, so I speak from experience: the Mets and Cubs are playing a game of "you win," "no you win," "no I insist, you win." Today, the Cubs insisted harder. Boy did they ever.

Jeremy Hefner didn't get to the 5th and the Mets couldn't figure out Scott Feldman, falling to the Cubs 8-2.

The Bad Stuff:

  • After a string of good starts, Jeremy Hefner ran into big trouble in the 4th inning, giving up four runs in what would turn out to be his last trip to the mound on the day.
  • The bullpen didn't fare much better, as Robert Carson gave up a solo home run to Anthony Rizzo and Collin McHugh, fresh up from Las Vegas, surrendered three runs in his two innings of relief.
  • Ike Davis went 0-4 in the cleanup slot, the only starter aside from Ruben Tejada not to get a hit.
  • The rest of the team didn't fare better in clutch situations, going 0-5 with RISP and stranding seven, including runners on second and third in each of the first two innings.
The Good Stuff:
  • Rick Ankiel saved New York from being shut out, blasting a two-run homer in the top of the 9th off Hector Rendon.
  • Daniel Murphy had two more hits to poke his average back over .300.
Final Analysis:
Easily believable as that the Mets haven't won any of Jeremy Hefner's starts this season. Harder to stomach is that, even at 0-5 with an ERA set at an even 5.00, Hefner is nevertheless one of New York's better starting pitchers in 2013. So for those of you calling for his head, who do you suggest will replace him in the rotation? Collin McHugh is just as ineffective as he was last year. Jeurys Familia won't do. Zack Wheeler is just one man. Suffice it to say, Jeremy Hefner is here to stay.

Ike Davis, on the other hand, is closer to losing his job than ever before. Hard as it is to believe, he's actually on a worse pace than he was last year. Through 40 games in 2012, he hit .160 with five home runs; through 40 games this season, he's hitting .156 with four home runs. Considering the team is already out looking for his replacement (I'd me more apt to move Lucas Duda back to his natural position), it's fair to expect that Ike Davis will take a Memorial Day trip to Las Vegas...and never return.


Game #39: Mets 3, Cubs 2

And by his ninth start of the season, Matt Harvey figured out that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

Harvey himself drove in the go-ahead run in the 7th to make another great start stand up as the Mets knocked off the Cubs in the afternoon series opener, 3-2.

The Good Stuff:
  • After getting the first out in the bottom of the 1st, Matt Harvey let Chicago score twice on a single, double, and another single. He would give up just two more hits the rest of his 7.1 innings of work, walking no one and striking out six on 106 pitches.
  • Yet New York failed to do more than tie the game when Harvey came to bat with Rick Ankiel on second and two out in the top of the 7th, and it looked like the young ace's fifth straight great start would go once again unfulfilled. Except Harvey helped his own cause with a groundball single through the hole in the left side, scoring Ankiel and finally putting himself in position to pick up that elusive fifth W.
  • But fate was looking unkind once again when Scott Rice was brought on with a runner on second and one out in the 8th inning. David DeJesus hit a single to right field, and Darwin Barney was coming around to score the tying run and seal another no-decision. Except Marlon Byrd through a strike from the outfield to nail Barney by a mile at the plate. Not even Mr. Harvey himself could have done it better.
  • David Wright and Daniel Murphy provided the rest of the offensive spark for the Mets, as Wright hit a bomb that barely missed clearing Waveland Avenue in the 1st (one of his three hits) and Murphy defied the in-blowing breeze with an opposite-field liner that just cleared the ivy-covered brick walls.
The Bad Stuff:
  • Wrigley Field is anciently old, so Gary and Keith were probably crammed into the press box pretty uncomfortably. At least Keith's lip won't tickle anymore.
Final Analysis:
In his appearance at the Grand Old Lady of the National League, Matt Harvey found out that this was his kind of town, Chicago is. His ERA went up again after this start, if you can believe it, increasing to 1.55 from 1.44. He keeps this up and the Mets have a legitimate chance of getting to see their boy start on the mound at their All-Star Game. And if David Wright and Daniel Murphy keep up their hot streaks, Harv could be pitching with two of his teammates right behind him in the infield.

As for the New York ball club, they have now won back-to-back games for the first time since visiting Minneapolis last month. Just the thing a hapless team needs to get their hap back: a team with even less hap. Hopefully the Chicago Cubs will continue their line of hap-credit tomorrow afternoon.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Game #38: Mets 5, Cardinals 2

It is official: we root for a solar-powered baseball team. All it took to win was the sun.

Daniel Murphy and David Wright led the offensive charge and Jonathon Niese finally got back on track as the Mets skipped town with a 5-2 win over the Cardinals.

The Good Stuff:

  • Down 1-0 in the top of the 3rd, Jordany Valdespin got a rally going with a two-out single. Daniel Murphy continued his hot streak with a game-tying double. David Wright singled him home one batter later to put the New Yorkers on top for the first time in what seems like forever.
  • In the 6th inning, Murph took his hot streak to a whole new level, lining a double with some impeccable aim through a gap in the right field wall for a ground-rule double. He scored five pitches later when Wright took Adam Wainwright for a ride for an RBI double, and Wright in turn came home two batters later on Lucas Duda's sac fly.
    • Murphy finished 4-4 at the plate, topping off a spectacular series hitting 10-16 with four doubles and three RBIs. His batting is now back up to a respectable .297.
  • The sudden barrage of runs was more than enough for Jonathon Niese, who finally pitched a good game at a two-run, six-hit clip in 7.1 innings, walking two and striking out three on 113 pitches.
    • Bobby Parnell shut the door for his fourth save to drop his ERA to 1.04.
  • New York executed two more double plays, a couple 5-4-3 turns that killed Redbird rallies in the 6th and 8th.
The Bad Stuff:
  • Ike Davis was the only starter (aside Niese) who didn't get in on the Mets' 11-hit parade, going 0-5 and striking out a lousy four times.
Final Analysis:
Maybe it was Daniel Murphy continuing his All-Star worthy series, maybe it was Jonathon Niese's return to last year's form, or maybe it was a sudden victory after a rough week. Probably it was all these things. Whatever it was, this win felt good. I mean really good. Hey, everyone! Come to Wrigley Field and see how good the Mets look! If they really do play like this in the daytime, it's going to be a heck of a weekend.


Game #37: Cardinals 4, Mets 2

To paraphrase an elderly Michael Corleone, "Just when we thought we were out, they pull us back in."

Rick Ankiel's home run tied it in the 7th but a Scott Rice wild pitch led to the go-ahead run in the next half inning as the Cardinals knocked off the Mets again, 4-2.

The Bad Stuff:
  • Tied 2-2 in the 7th, Shaun Marcum got through the first two St. Louis batters with ease. The next few, however, not so much. Daniel Descalso walked and Pete Kozma singled him over to third. Scott Rice was brought on in relief, but his first pitch was a wild one that allowd Descalso to score. Whoops.
  • LaTroy Hawkins allowed one more run during a flawed 8th inning in relief.
  • On rare occasions when New York had RISP they did not capitalize, hitting 0-4 in those situations and stranding five men on base.
The Good Stuff:
  • In spite of the loss, Marcum turned in his best start of the season, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits in 6.2 innings, walking one and striking out three on 96 pitches. He also helped his own cause at the plate with two hits.
  • In his second start in center field, Rick Ankiel produced the Mets' runs with a two-run opposite-field home run in the 7th inning that tied the game at 2-2.
  • Daniel Murphy went just 1-4, but his one hit was his 11th double on the season.
Final Analysis:
On a better day, the Mets might have won this one. Starting pitching was strong for the first time in what seems like forever (excluding Matt Harvey's starts, of course). Unfortunately, the two other elements failed to show up, as hitting and relief pitching played into the hands of the Redbirds. Marcum and Ankiel were the stars of the day; for New York to get back on track, both of them will have to be at the top of their respective games.

The Mets begin a stretch of four straight day games tomorrow afternoon as they wrap of the series beneath the Arch; they will travel to Wrigley Field for the weekend set with the Cubs.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Game #36: Cardinals 10, Mets 4

Well, at least Imagine Dragons seemed to have fun.

The Cardinals jumped on Dillon Gee early and would not get off, as the Mets dropped another in St. Louis, 10-4.

The Bad Stuff:
  • Most of it, but specifically:
    • Dillon Gee gave up six runs (five earned) in four innings; his ERA is now a paltry 6.13.
    • Robert Carson gave up four more runs in two innings, including a three-run shot to Carlos Beltran in the 5th.
    • New York only managed six hits off STL starter John Gast in his major-league debut and didn't get any off the Redbird bullpen.
The Good Stuff:
  • Daniel Murphy had two more hits and a run to get his average up to .279.
  • Marlon Byrd socked a two-run homer in the 6th to go along with a double earlier off Gast.
  • Brandon Lyon and Greg Burke (he's back up?) kept the Cardinals from getting too far into double digits in the 7th and 8th.
Final Analysis:
Welp...we just don't have enough good players. But tomorrow is another day; we could win tomorrow.

What else do you want me to say? I refuse to subscribe to the vitriol.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Game #35: Cardinals 6, Mets 3

New York's most valuable man at the plate tonight may well have been Carlos Beltran. (NOTE: You're not reading this in 2011.)

The Mets put up a three-spot in the 2nd inning but the Cardinals broke a tie in the 7th with three runs of their own, taking the series opener 6-3.

The Bad Stuff:
  • After a rare quality start from someone not named Matt Harvey, the New York bullpen once again burst his bubble. Scott Rice gave up two runs in the bottom of the 7th, one of them coming home on a two-run homer Scott Atchison gave up to Matt Holliday in the same frame.
  • The Mets improved on quality but lacked in quantity with RISP, hitting 2-3 in that situation and leaving seven men on base.
The Good Stuff:
  • Jeremy Hefner had himself a third quality start in his last four, allowing three runs on five hits in six innings, walking four and striking out two.
  • Daniel Murphy broke his slump in a big way, collecting three of his team's four hits on the night. One was a two-run double in the 2nd (admittedly the aforementioned Beltran lost a seemingly sure line drive in the sun) to put the team on the board. He then scored on David Wright's infield single two pitches later.

  • Rick Ankiel made his debut for the orange and blue, starting in center field and scoring the team's first run after a leadoff walk in the 2nd.
  • New York turned two more double plays, one of them completed by a rare outfield assist from Lucas Duda.
Final Analysis:
Focus on the positives. Focus on the positives. Murphy got some momentum going again. Hefner is turning into one of the better starers we have. We only struck out 10 times tonight instead of 12 or 16. I'm about to have a good Top Ten list for Rising Apple (check back soon for the link). Focus on the positives.


Weekly Recap, May 6-12

It's been a rough week for both my team and myself. Fortunately for me, after dealing with the cable company, a wireless router, and some nasty adware, I'm back up to full-speed. I wish the fix was as easy for the New York Mets. Here's what you missed this week on Midwestern Met.

Team Record: 2-4 (14-20 overall)
May 7-8, White Sox Series: T, 1-1
May 9-12, Pirates Series: L, 1-3

The Bad Stuff:
  • Aside from Matt Harvey and Dillon Gee, the New York starting staff was, to put it nicely, sub-par. Jeremy Hefner, Shaun Marcum, and Jonathon Niese were shelled at the hands of the Chicago and Pittsburgh bats.
  • The New York offense didn't fare much better, scoring fewer than three runs in every game on the homestand.
  • Jordany Valdespin had some trouble in the Pittsburgh series, getting plunked on Saturday for admiring his home run in a blowout the night before. While his teammates supported them all they could within the baseball code, JV1 didn't quite understand why New York wouldn't retaliate for what he saw as a "baseless" beaning.

The Good Stuff:
  • Matt Harvey, period. He came about as perfect as a pitcher can come without actually doing it, allowing a little dribbler of an infield hit on Tuesday that was the only blemish on a nine-inning, no-walk, 12 strikeout performance. While he wasn't nearly as good on Sunday, his numbers (two runs in seven innings) should have been good enough for the win. Instead of 6-0, though, he's stuck on 4-0. At least none of those was an L.
  • Dillon Gee pitched well in his Thursday start, allowing a single run in five innings of work.
  • The Whitestone Kid, Mike Baxter, made a name for himself during the week with two walk-off hits, a single in the 10th that broke the Tuesday tie with the Sox, and a 9th-inning base knock that offed the Pirates in the series opener. He was the recipient of two, count 'em, TWO, whipped cream pies in the face courtesy of Justin Turner (Buck would have broken his face for sure on the second).
  • Juan Legares flashed his glove on multiple occasions, saving a home run on Thursday and coming up with a nifty shoestring-then-dive to help Harvey out on Sunday.

Final Analysis:
That Saturday's 11-2 blowout was on Banner Day was appropriate, as this was a Banner Week for all that is wrong with the Mets so far. The most disappointing slumps belong to Ike Davis (so painful to watch a repeat of 2012), Jonathon Niese (Opening Day starter and anchor of the staff coming into the season), and Daniel Murphy (should have been an All-Star starter with his start).

Still, as my boss over at Rising Apple points out, didn't we expect this from the beginning? Didn't w know this year was a wash on the road to contention? We know 2014 is when things will start to get better, so should we really be concerned that the team is under-preforming in 2013? In a way, no we shouldn't; the heart of the matter is that the Mets just don't have enough good ballplayers. They're temporary fixes, never meant to be part of the big picture. Rick Ankiel may not be the most desirable pickup, but he's only meant to be a stopgap on the way to better things.

The only thing I can see that would be of concern is the sheer quantity of holes in the lineup. We knew the bullpen and outfield would be trouble, but now that the starting rotation and infield have started faltering, that may be something to raise an eyebrow at. Their slumps will probably slide, but it's something to keep an eye on.

Either way, all Mets fans can do now is take it one day at a time, root for the guys, and remember that in the grand scheme of things baseball should be a source of happiness. It's up to us to find it.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

NOTICE: Limited Updates This Week

I just moved into my summer housing up in Holland, Michigan and am without Internet for the next few days. My WiFi timer at JPs Espresso Bar will run out in about an hour and a half, so unless Matt Harvey blows through the Pale Hose in record time, a game recap will be highly unlikely, as will recaps for the next few days. Recaps will resume regularly once my roommates and I figure out what plan we want.

See you in a few days, and LGM


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Game #28: Braves 9, Mets 4

Coming back after another rainout, New York was once again stuck in the mud.

A misjudged fly ball by Lucas Duda led to a five-run Atlanta 3rd, and the Mets 8th-inning comeback came up short, as they fell to the Braves 9-4.

The Bad Stuff:
  • One run was in already for the Braves in the bottom of the 3rd, but a fly ball to left by Freddie Freeman created all sorts of trouble for Lucas Duda, who circled under it and failed to catch what became a two-run double. When the dust had finally settled, Jonathon Niese had given up seven runs on seven hits and six walks. He would last only one more inning.
  • Down 8-2, the Mets got a couple runs home and leaded the bases, but Marlon Byrd swung and missed at ball four from Eric O'Flaherty to kill the rally.
    • Ike Davis was due up just before Byrd with the bases loaded, but with a left-hander coming in he was pinch-hit for with Justin Turner. Turner drew the RBI walk, but when your supposed slugger is removed from the game in a clutch situation, that's some Bad Stuff.
The Good Stuff:
Final Analysis:
I'm convinced that even Mother Nature is against the Mets this season. Every time they seem to get a winning streak going, the weather steps in and wreaks havoc on the playing schedule, whether it's rain in Atlanta or snow in Minneapolis and Denver.

But it wasn't just the unexpected day off: Jonathon Niese is not pitching the way we expected him to. His ERA now stands at an unexceptional 4.66. Niese needs to get back confidence in his pitches. The old adage for the 1940s Boston Braves was "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain." The Mets thought they would have both halves of their "pray for rain" duo in Niese and Matt Harvey. Only Harvey has kept up his end of the bargain in 2013. While the two-man rotation is highly, highly unlikely, a one-man band would be utterly impossible.


Saturday, May 4, 2013

Game #27: Mets 7, Braves 5 (10)

In a week defined by blown leads, it was nice to see our boys do the blowing up tonight.

David Wright blasted a mammoth home run off Craig Kimbrel in the 9th and Ruben Tejada brought home Jordany Valdespin in the 10th inning to give the Mets a dramatic comeback win over the Braves, 7-5.

The Good Stuff:

  • New York got quick runs in the 1st when John Buck launched his 10th home run of the young season, a two-run shot off Mike Minor. In the next inning, Lucas Duda hammered his own homer to make it 3-0 visitors.
  • Down 4-3 in the 8th, Marlon Byrd took the second pitch of the inning from Eric O'Flaherty and put it in the right field stands to tie the game. After Atlanta re-took the lead in the bottom of the 8th, David Wright came up against the "unhittable" Craig Kimbrel. They must have meant Kimbrel was unhittable the same way the Titanic was unsinkable: Wright got contact on a 97 mph fastball and deposited it ten rows back in right center, tying the game on the Mets' fourth longball of the night.
  • After Bobby Parnell got out of a jam in the bottom of the 9th, Terry Collins took over in the top of the 10th.
    • After two quick outs, Jordany Valdespin was sent up to pinch-hit and drew a rare walk, the first base-on-balls issued by the Braves all night.
    • Up to the plate next came not a pinch-hitter but Bobby Parnell, who stayed out of the way on the first strike from Jordan Walden as Valdespin swiped second base. Parnell was then brought back in favor of a pinch-hitter, Mike Baxter.
    • Baxter got himself hit in the foot to put two runners on for Ruben Tejada, who in his trademark fashion came back with two strikes to line a base hit over the shortstop's head to score a head-first-sliding Valdespin and give the Mets a 6-5 lead.
    • Daniel Murphy's base knock added one more insurance run to provide the final margin.
  • Jeurys Familia was then brought on and easily converted his first major-league save with a 1-2-3 inning, finishing off Dan Uggla with a wicked slider.
  • The Mets hit well in the clutch for what seems like the first time in a month, going 3-6 with RISP and stranding only two men (the last two in the 10th).
The Bad Stuff:
  • Shaun Marcum was not great in his second start, surrendering three runs and needing 87 pitches just to get 13 outs.
  • Scott Atchison and Brandon Lyon let Atlanta re-take the lead in the 7th and 8th innings respectively.
  • Ike Davis pinch-hit for Justin Turner in the 9th and feebly struck out on three pitches from Kimbrel.
Final Analysis:
A sudden power surge, cracking the Braves' bullpen, and some key managing by TC. What a way to win a ballgame! After a tough week of games, Mets fans were treated to one of the team's finest performances in its first visit to Turner Field without having to worry about Chipper Jones. No doubt he would have given Atlanta another lead in the 9th inning, but their loss is our gain.

Keith Hernandez was quick to point out Terry Collins's smart managing in the 10th inning, noting that Parnell was sent up in a situation where Valdespin was stealing flat-out; if he swiped the bag, Parnell would be relieved in favor of someone whose last clutch at-bat had come more recently than high school, and if he was caught, de facto bullpen ace Parnell would still be able to take the mound for the bottom of the frame. Smart moves from a guy whose instincts had been questioned even by me. Tonight those instincts led to a big W. If that is the result of me being proven wrong (at least for one night), by all means let me be wrong again.