Sunday, June 30, 2013

Game #78: Nationals 13, Mets 2

In Zack Wheeler's Citi Field debut, New York fans witnessed a masterful performance from a bona-fide ace. Just not the one they wanted.

Gio Gonzalez shut the Mets down for seven innings and the Nationals got to Wheeler and the bullpen, resulting in a humiliating 13-2 loss in the Mets' June finale.

The Bad Stuff:
  • Zack Wheeler had a great 1st inning, and that was about it. Adam LaRoche's 2nd-inning home run opened the door for Washington to get four runs off Wheeler in that inning. He was knocked out of the game after 4.2 innings having allowed five runs on six hits.
  • Brandon Lyon must have felt bad enough about Zack's rough outing, because he made Wheeler's performance look positively Cy Young-esque. Lyon let in six 8th-inning runs while only retiring two Nats.
  • It got so bad that even backup catcher Anthony Recker got on the mound for an inning. Recker allowed a two-run homer to Ian Desmond in the 9th.
  • Meanwhile, there was nothing the Met offense could do against Gio Gonzalez, whose final line consisted of seven three-hit shutout innings.
The Good Stuff:
  • John Buck's two-run home run in the bottom of the 9th kept the home team from being shut out.
  • Josh Satin had two more hits, including his fourth double, to increase his average to .375.
  • David Wright smashed his 17th double of the season.
Final Analysis:
And I thought Friday's blown victory least there was life in the team that night.

Zack Wheeler will get better, that's almost a given. It's just rough to see him struggle so mightily when his peer Matt Harvey adjusted finely to the big leagues. It's just going to take patience...something we Mets fans should be great at by now.


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Game #77: Mets 5, Nationals 1

Now THAT is how you hold a lead.

Dillon Gee's six quality innings were backed with plenty of offense and scoreless relief as the Mets bounced back to bounce the Nationals 5-1.

The Good Stuff:
  • Dillon Gee rebounded from a rough start last weekend to deliver six innings of one-run, six-hit ball, walking three and striking out four on 85 pitches. In his last six outings, beginning with his dominance of the Yankees, Gee has gone 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA, and his overall numbers have improved to 6-7 with a 4.60 ERA, down from 6.34 before the Subway Series.
  • Once Dillon made his exit, the New York bullpen did what they could not do for Matt Harvey last night: put the nail in the National coffin. Carlos Torres turned in two scoreless innings and struck out three, while LaTroy Hawkins got the final three outs to secure the victory.
  • Daniel Murphy and Omar Quintanilla combined for five hits and three Met runs.
  • Marlon Byrd tacked on his 40th RBI of the season with a single to plate Murph in the bottom of the 6th.
  • Josh Satin got on base two more times, going 1-3 with a walk off Washington rookie Taylor Jordan. He would have had another hit and an RBI in 6th but was robbed by a diving Ryan Zimmerman.
  • The Mets defense turned three double plays, including a 6-4-3 to procure outs number 26 and 27.
The Bad Stuff:
  • New York could have put more runs on the board, but they stranded 10 men on base.
Final Analysis:
There's the positive outcome we were looking for. There's the three components coming together at the same time. And there's a 9th win in 14 games since David Wright's players-only team meeting. Says Wright about the team's recent success? "I just think that I'm a hell of a motivator." That you are, David. That. You. Are.


Game #76: Nationals 6, Mets 4

So much for the conquering heroes of the 7-4 road trip...

Matt Harvey's big night was spoiled by a five-run flourish by the Nationals against the Mets bullpen, as the not-so-Amazin's lost a heartbreaker, 6-4.

The Bad Stuff:
  • For 7.2 innings, the Mets were in complete control, leading 4-1. But David Aardsma had allowed the leadoff man to reach in the top of the 8th, and Josh Edgin was given the chance to retire lefty Denard Span for the third out of the inning. It didn't work out so well, as Span doubled to put men on second and third. After Brandon Lyon walked the bases loaded, Ryan Zimmerman cleared the bases and the Mets' lead.
  • Things got worse in the 9th as Bobby Parnell allowed back-to-back doubles to Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond to put the Washingtonians out front. Desmond came around to score two batters later to provide the final margin.
  • New York gave Harvey more than usual run support, but missed plenty of opportunities in the form of 3-12 RISP hitting and nine men left.
The Good Stuff:
  • Harvey was about as good as he could have been, allowing a solo home run and just two more hits over seven brilliant innings, walking no one and striking out 11 on 109 pitches. He now has an NL-best 2.00 ERA for the worst home team in baseball.
  • Josh Satin was a revelation, going 3-3 (his first career multi-hit game) with two doubles and two RBIs.
  • Marlon Byrd had himself an RBI double in the 5th to go along with a spectacular diving catch in the 4th.
  • David Wright and Juan Lagares also had two-baggers for the New Yorkers.
Final Analysis:
Well...that sucked. The momentum gained from a week and a half on the road was supposed to be built on, and for most of the game it was. Until that darn bullpen relapsed into anti-clutch mode, that is. Parnell took the L, and as irony would have it, the Mets' closer has more decisions (5-4) than does their ace, Matt Harvey (7-1).

But let's stick to the positives: Harvey was amazing again, Josh Satin is making a name for himself in the form of a .360 start, Marlon Byrd is going strong, and Eric Young is finally providing the speed on the basepaths that has been lacking since Jose Reyes's and Angel Pagan's departures. For the most part, this team is coming together for a nice second-half run. Now it's just a matter of getting all parts of the engine firing at the same time, something that alludes the team when it is at home.

There's a high school in my homestate of Indiana, Indianapolis Cathedral, that does not have a home football stadium. They play all their games on the road. Sandy Alderson might want to talk to their athletic director, see if he can swing a similar deal.


Friday, June 28, 2013

Game #75: Mets 3, Rockies 2

With David Wright getting the day off, what would it take for the Mets to steal one in mile-high Denver? Just someone who spends plenty of time up in the air: a Byrd.

Marlon Byrd socked a two-run go-ahead home run in the top of the 8th to propel the Mets to a 3-2 makeup victory over the Rockies.

The Good Stuff:
  • Down 2-1 in the top of the 8th, Daniel Murphy grounded a one-out single up the middle (his second hit of the afternoon). That brought up Byrd, who took the seventh pitch he saw from Matt Belisle and swung at a ball that rose and drifted all the way over the fence in left center.
  • Scott Rice got through his troubles in the bottom of the 8th and handed it off to Bobby Parnell, who sat the Rockies down 1-2-3 for his second save in as many nights (his 14th of the year).
  • The runs came too late for Jeremy Hefner, who picked up the no-decision after another quality start. Hef's final numbers were two runs against (one earned) on five hits in six innings, including a walk and three strikeouts on 80 pitches. Despite only winning two of his starts this month, Hefner has an ERA of 1.80 in June, putting him in line for a potential NL Pitcher of the Month.
    • Hef also helped his own cause with an RBI groundout in the 5th inning.
The Bad Stuff:
  • Josh Satin's throwing error led to Colorado's second, unearned run in the bottom of the 2nd.
Final Analysis:
Tomorrow night the New York Mets return home not as a 32-43 ball club, but as the conquering heroes of a 7-4 road trip. Since Kirk Nieuwenhuis's miracle blast off Carlos Marmol, the Mets have won eight of their last 12 games. All aspects of good baseball have finally synced up, as New York is getting great starting pitching, bullpen work, and clutch hitting all at once. Drink it in, fans: our summer fun has arrived.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Game #74: Mets 3, White Sox 0

Either way you slice it, Shaun Marcum was going to have a "1" after his next decision. Fortunately for him, it came on the proper side for once.

Marcum tossed eight shutout innings for his first W of the season as the Mets salvaged a split with the White Sox, blanking the Southsiders 3-0.

The Good Stuff:
  • Half of Shaun Marcum's 0-9 record came from bad outings, half of it came from bad luck. He got good on both counts tonight, tossing eight innings of scoreless, four-hit ball, walking two (both to Adam Dunn) and striking out two on 96 pitches.
  • Bobby Parnell came on to induce three left-side groundballs for the final three outs, notching his 13th save and lowering his ERA to 2.45.
  • New York's three runs came in the 5th inning off Chicago starter John Denks:
    • Josh Satin led off with a single and Andrew Brown followed with one of his own two batters later. Juan Lagares then hit a groundball that got past the glove of shortstop Alexi Ramirez, allowing both runners to score. Two batters later, Eric Young beat out a groundball for a run-scoring infield single.
  • Omar Quintanilla had about as good a fielding inning as possible in the bottom of the 5th. With no out and a runner on first, he started a 6-4-3 double play with a backhand shovel to a barehanded Daniel Murphy, whose wild throw was managed by Josh Satin, who cleanly tagged out Gordon Beckham. Six pitches later, Mr. Q flashed the skills of Mr. November with a long jumping throw to peg Tyler Flowers.
  • At least a couple times in the game, WFAN's Josh Lewin made references to Jim Croce songs. "The south side of Chicago is the baddest part of town," and something about "Bad, bad Andrew Brown." It may not have been a huge hit with Howie, but it was to this Midwesterner. Way to go Josh.
The Bad Stuff:
Final Analysis:
Shaun Marcum was bound to get off the schneid eventually; he's not a 9-0 starter but he's certainly not 0-9 guy either. 1-9 isn't ideal but at least he has a winning percentage.

Eric Young had three more hits tonight. In seven games with the Mets he's gone 12-29 with 6 RBIs. How did we not get this guy sooner? He probably won't be able to sustain it for very long, but the Amazin's have a winning record in games he's played, and that is an encouraging sign.

Stop the presses...the Mets are on a hot streak? Indeed they are: with tonight's win they've been on the right side of the scoreboard in seven of their last 11 games. Starting pitching, relief work, and the bats are all coming together at once for a change, and a grand time is being had by all. The team now heads out to Denver to make up a game that was frozen out in April. Fortunately this time the weather is supposed to be hot. It perfectly suits these day trippers.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Game #73: White Sox 5, Mets 4

Gordon Beckham offered his guests the game. The guests turned around and said, "No thanks, you keep it."

David Wright tied the game in the top of the 9th when Beckham dropped a confusing Daniel Murphy pinch-hit infield popup that would have ended the game, but LaTroy Hawkins's error in the bottom of the frame opened the door for an Alexei Ramirez walk-off single. The result: blunders cancel out, Mets fall to White Sox 5-4.

The Bad Stuff:
  • After the unexpected tie on a flyball that three Pale Hose got under and couldn't corral (Luis Castillo revisited, anyone?), Chicago rallied to successfully pick up the pieces.
    • Jeff Keppinger singled on LaTroy Hawkins's second pitch to start the bottom of the 9th, then Hawkins mishandled Beckham's sac bunt, putting the winning run on second base with no out. Tyler Flowers grounded into a force out, then Alejandro De Aza popped out for what should have been the inning-ender. But the error loomed large as Ramirez singled to win the ballgame.
  • Zack Wheeler had to have his offense bail him out of his second start, as he proved to be human with a four-run, four-hit, three-walk performance in 5.1 innings, striking out just one on 109 pitches (66 strikes).
  • Getting what may be one of his final chances with Daniel Murphy's day off,  Jordany Valdepin went 0-3 with two strikeouts against White Sox starter Chris Sale (who struck out 13 New Yorkers in eight innings). Don't be surprised if we never see him start in a Mets uniform again.
The Good Stuff:
  • The Mets took an early 2-0 lead when Eric Young led off the game with a double and came home on Marlon Byrd's sac fly three batters later. Byrd later scored on an RBI single by Josh Satin.
  • Andrew Brown hit his third home run of the season in the top of the 5th to give the Mets a temporary 3-2 lead.
  • Carlos Torres and Josh Edgin kept New York in the game with 2.2 combined scoreless innings.
Final Analysis:
Zack Wheeler will experience growing pains. That's a given. He'll get better as the season goes on. As for Jordany Valdespin, it's been all pains and no growing this year. We could all put up with his antics if he was hitting better than .202. But he's not.

All in all, the team that deserved to win tonight's game won tonight's game. As a Mets fan I wish it had gone our way, but it certainly would not have felt like a victory. Justice was done.

Baseball is a game of justice: it has rules, and they are followed to the best of their ability. This is more than I can say about democracy in some parts of America. An egregious breach of law was carried out tonight on the floor of the Texas State Senate. I will let you, dear reader, look more into the issue should you choose. But if what seems to have happened tonight is confirmed, it is a sad, sad day for American democracy, indeed.


*UPDATE* - It did not, in fact, pass. Constitutional crisis averted.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Game #72: Mets 8, Phillies 0

The offense the Amazin's had failed to put behind Matt Harvey came out all at once. The result: doublepalooza in Philadelphia.

David Wright slugged four extra-base hits, including two of the team's six doubles, as the Mets put the hammer to the Phillies, taking the series finale 8-0.

The Good Stuff:
  • With NL All-Star voting winding down and his nemesis Pablo Sandoval injured, David Wright made his strongest push yet to start in his home ballpark. Wright went 4-5 with a pair of doubles, a triple, a solo home run, two runs, and two RBIs to give the game its final margin.
  • The visitors were beneficiaries of a controversial call in the 5th inning.
    • Juan Lagares appeared to fly out to center fielder Ben Revere for out number one, but in the process of a quick transfer from glove hand to throwing hand, Revere was ruled to have lost possession of the ball and Lagares was awarded a three-base error.
    • Sensing the opportunity to pad his own lead, Matt Harvey seized the chance two batters later with a double to the gap in right center, scoring Lagares.
    • On the very next pitch, Eric Young laced his own two-batter into the left field corner to plate Harvey.
    • Wright broke it open two batters later by smashing his second double of the game, this one to around the same spot as Harvey's and missing clearing the fence by a few feet.
  • Lagares had an RBI double of his own later in the game, and Marlon Byrd drove in a couple runs with a couple of his own hits of the two-base variety.
  • Matt Harvey usually makes due with two or three runs behind him, so with the pressure of a close game lifted, he was able to completely subdue the non-Phightin' Phils through six innings, allowing two hits and a walk against six strikeouts. He was removed after just 72 pitches due to a short rain delay, giving him a little extra rest before his next outing, which I'm sure both he and the Mets are grateful for.
  • Harvey's presence was hardly missed in the last three innings, as LaTroy Hawkins and Brandon Lyon shepherded the New Yorkers to three scoreless innings, retiring nine of 10 batters on the way to preserving the shutout.
The Bad Stuff:
Final Analysis:
Except for a narrow blemish yesterday afternoon, this was a very impressive series for the New York Mets, who have won six of their last nine games. The bats have been producing overall and in the clutch, and the bullpen for the most part was rock solid. Matt Harvey's dominance elevated a very ordinary showing from the starting pitchers. Starting pitching is usually clearly the Mets' strong point, but if the team can win two out of three and push the third to the absolute limit with just average starting pitching, they will be in very good shape.

After sleepwalking through the couple weeks after the Subway Series, the Mets have woken up in a big way. Will they elevate their performance to playoff contention? Almost positively not. But the New York Mets are playing good baseball right now, and I hope the fans are taking notice.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Game #71: Phillies 8, Mets 7

New York didn't have much time to celebrate their comeback. The quest to keep the game tied ended two pitches after it started.

The Mets mounted a furious six-run comeback but were thwarted in the bottom of the 9th by a Kevin Frandsen walk-off home run as the Phillies evened the series 8-7.

The Bad Stuff:
  • Dillon Gee got taken off the hook for what should have been an L, as he allowed six runs (five earned) on eight hits in five innings.
  • Carlos Torres was the man who served up Frandsen's late-game heroics: it was a 1-0 fastball that Kevin sent into the left field stands of Citizens Bank Park.
The Good Stuff:
  • After falling behind 7-1, the Mets did not shrivel up and die for the final three innings, scoring four runs in the top of the 7th and two in the 9th.
  • Before Torres, the New York bullpen did a solid job of keeping things close, as the only run that came in was an unearned tick on Greg Burke's watch. Josh Edgin, Scott Rice, and David Aardsma kept Philly from widening the gap in the 7th and 8th.
Final Analysis:
Folks who look at the final score will see a NYM loss, but fans of the team should be proud that the boys stuck in there. When a struggling team falls behind they tend to throw in the towel, but for today at least, the Mets had a little fight in them, losing in a fashion similar to the end of Rocky.


Game #70: Mets 4, Phillies 3

For all the abuse the New York outfield has taken in 2013, tonight it was two of its unsung/new additions that put the team over the top.

Eric Young had a couple RBIs and Juan Lagares's run-scoring double in the 6th put the Mets up for good as they beat the Phillies 4-3 in the series opener.

The Good Stuff:
  • Juan Lagares got the best of Cole Hamels, going 3-4 with two doubles against the former Philly ace. His two-out double in the 6th inning scored a hustling Lucas Duda to put the Mets up (for good) 4-3.
  • New acquisition Eric Young went 2-4 with a run and a two-run single in the 5th inning that tied the game at 3-3.
  • David Wright drove in the first New York run with an RBI single in the 4th.
  • The runs backed up Jeremy Hefner, who earned his second W of the season (as many as Hamels) with a three-run, 10-hit, six-inning outing that resulted in yet another quality start. He walked just one and struck out six on 107 pitches, knocking down his ERA to 3.89.
  • Scott Rice, Carlos Torres, and Bobby Parnell combined for three hitless innings in relief of Hef, and Parnell picked up his 12th save on a 1-2-3 9th in which he struck out Ryan Howard to "put it in the books."
The Bad Stuff:
  • New York committed two errors, as Daniel Murphy made an errant play in the 2nd inning that resulted in one of the Phillies' three runs in the frame, and Anthony Recker's throwing error led to an extra baserunner in the 4th.
Final Analysis:
The Mets' best wins always seem to come in Philadelphia, and tonight's showing in front of 40,062 fans at Citizens Bank Park was no exception. The Amazin's had everything from quality starting pitching to clutch hitting to lockdown bullpen work in their corner tonight as they won their fifth game in seven.

Jonathon Niese's injury is certainly unfortunate, but it means Jeremy Hefner will get most likely a full season as a starting pitcher, which up to this point he has earned. His W-L record doesn't show it, but when has it ever for the Terry Collins era Mets (see R.A. Dickey's 2011)? Hef is doing Perkins, Oklahoma proud by establishing himself as a genuine major-league starter: five of his last six outings have been quality starts, and he hasn't allowed more than five earned runs all season. He'll never be more than a fourth or fifth starter in the majors, but every team needs one of those in their rotation, and Hefner has been quite valuable in that role for the Mets in 2013. Here's hoping he continues to impress and keeps on giving us the chance to win night after night.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Game #69: Mets 4, Braves 3

The boys from New York rallied around one of their own tonight and came up big in their traditional house of horrors.

Josh Satin's pinch-hit RBI double put the Mets over the top in the 7th inning, and Bobby Parnell and company slammed the door shut on the Braves as the Mets won 4-3 to clinch their first series in Atlanta since 2011 and deal the Braves their first series loss at home this year.

The Good Stuff:
  • David Wright socked two solo home runs, one in the 1st and one in the 4th.
  • Andrew Brown hit a pinch-hit home run in the 5th to tie the game at 3-3.
  • After Omar Quintanilla battled Mike Minor to a 10-pitch double to lead off the 7th, Josh Satin pulled through with a double of his own to provide the final margin.
  • After Jonathon Niese's early departure (see below), the New York bullpen came together to toss 5.2 scoreless innings in relief. LaTroy Hawkins was on the winning line for the Mets after taking care of the 5th and 6th innings, and Bobby Parnell picked up his 11th save with a no-nonsense 1-2-3 9th.
The Bad Stuff:
Final Analysis:
Now that is how you win a close game. Clutch hitting and clutch pitching haven't come together often for the Mets, but when they do, it's a thing of beauty. Now they can celebrate (to a degree) winning a rare five-game series in Turner Field, where so much had gone wrong in the past.

The only thing that spoils the victory is Niese's lingering shoulder problems. This hasn't been his season, and he will be crucial to the team's success in the long-term. It would be so wonderful if he only had to miss a start or two, but if you're looking for silver linings in a potential long loss of playing time, at least we didn't lose him at the height of a pennant race. Get well soon, Jon.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Game #68: Braves 5, Mets 3

In a game closer than it should have been, New York barely missed out on stealing one from Atlanta.

Shaun Marcum gave up five runs in less than five innings and the Mets couldn't get enough offense going on their own, falling to the Braves 5-3.

The Bad Stuff:
  • Shaun Marcum didn't help his case to stay in the rotation after Zack Wheeler's full integration, allowing five runs on six hits and four walks in 4.2 innings, striking out six on 96 pitches. Every Brave run came with two outs (Chris Johnson's three-run homer in the 4th, a wild pitch and B.J. Upton double in the 5th).
  • The Mets managed one earned run and six hits off Kris Medlen in seven innings and failed to record a hit off Luis Avilan and Craig Kimbrel in the 8th and 9th. Overall, they had just three at-bats with RISP, collecting one hit and stranding two men on base.
The Good Stuff:
  • After falling behind 3-0 in the 4th, New York fought back to tie the game in the 5th. Marlon Byrd led off with a single and Lucas Duda was hit by the pitch. John Buck then grounded to the pitcher, but Medlen tossed it away from third base and eventually both Byrd and Duda scored. Buck went to second and was immediately driven in by Kirk Nieuwenhuis (who should have had two hits if not for a spectacular catch by Jordan Schafer in right on a line drive in the 3rd).
  • Carlos Torres tossed 2.1 scoreless innings in relief, keeping his ERA spotless in a couple appearances. David Aardsma and Scott Rice followed by combining for a scoreless 8th.
Final Analysis:
Shaun Marcum doesn't deserve the 0-9 record he's been dealt, but he certainly deserved the L tonight. After the six-man rotation plays out for the next few weeks, don't be surprised to see Marcum lose his job, especially with Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner each pitching so well.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis is finally making good, consistent contact with the ball after months of frustration. Definitely this is a good sign for a man who's had more hits in the past week than he had in the 18 major-league games before.

Tomorrow night the Mets finish up their long series in Atlanta looking to win the five-game series. Jonathon Niese will get the ball opposite Mike Minor; he will look to follow the great performances of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Dillon Gee (he was great for most of Monday night!) with a signature outing of his own.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Games #66 & #67: Mets 4-6, Braves 3-1

Mets fans have been waiting 23 months for this day, and its two main actors did not disappoint.

Matt Harvey took a third no-hit bid into the 7th inning and the Mets held on to give him a 4-3 win over the Braves in the first game of the doubleheader. In the second game, late offense propped up Zack Wheeler's stellar big league debut in a 6-1 Mets victory.

The Good Stuff:
  • Matt Harvey technically finished up statistically worse than his last start in which he lost his first game of the year, allowing three runs on three hits and three walks in seven-plus innings. But no one would argue that this start was an electric one: he struck out a career-high 13 batters and took his third no-hit bid of the season into the 7th inning, only to see it lost on a Jayson Heyward infield single that Lucas Duda failed to cover first base for.
    • The major difference for Harvey in this one was that he actually got run support: John Buck's solo home run in the 4th highlighted a day in which the Mets scored four runs, or double what they had put behind Harvey in his past two starts combined.
    • After LaTroy Hawkins and Scott Rice almost spoiled another decision for Harvey, Bobby Parnell came on for a clutch four-out save, his 10th of the season. The victory was Harvey's sixth and first in a month.
  • Following a stellar opening act, the baseball world watched the pilot of The Zack Wheeler Show. And call it a hunch, but I think it's gonna get picked up. Wheeler dazzled the hometown faithful (Smyrna, GA is 16 miles outside Atlanta) with six scoreless innings and seven strikeouts in his big-league debut. He was far from perfect, issuing five walks to go along with his four hits, but he showed veteran poise by getting out of jams in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 6th frames.
    • Like Mets veterans already know, Wheeler had to be as perfect as possible, as he was still locked in a scoreless tie after the 6th. But Josh Satin led off the 7th with a single, and Anthony Recker blasted a two-run homer to put some runs behind his battery mate. Brandon Lyon ran into some trouble in the bottom of the 7th but eventually got out of it with a one-run New York lead in tact.
    • With two other one-run games in the rear view mirror from the same calendar day, the midsection of the Mets order decided it was time to relieve their fans of any potential heart palpitations. Marlon Byrd started things with a two-out double and then scored on a pickoff attempt-turned-double error. Then after a walk by Satin and single by Recker, Juan Lagares laced a single to left to score one. Omar Quintanilla followed with a hard grounder into right to plate two more runs, making it a much-more comfortable 6-1 lead for Wheeler and company.
    • And just like that, with a Josh Edgin strikeout of Freddie Freeman, Queens's newest hope had his first major league W.
The Bad Stuff:
Final Analysis:
In the words of my dad, who messaged me after the final out: "We've seen the future of the New York Mets, and its names are Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler." I know it's bad luck to look so far ahead, but can you blame me? Mets fans have been wallowing through five years of mediocre baseball, and now we finally have some rays of hope for the long-term future. Should all go according to The Plan, we'll look back on this day, June 18, 2013, as the day it all started.


P.S. The Mets may finally have a leadoff man, as they have acquired outfielder Eric Young, Jr. from the Rockies in exchange for Collin McHugh. Good news all around today!


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Game #65: Braves 2, Mets 1

As we already know, the walk-off home run is a two-way street.

Dillon Gee's shutout and win were lost with one swing of Freddie Freeman's bat, as the Braves knocked off the Mets in the wee hours of the morning, 2-1.

The Bad Stuff:
  • Gee started the 9th inning off right by getting Jason Heyward to ground out to second. And that was all she wrote for Gee, whose next eight pitches resulted in a Justin Upton single and Freddie Freeman home run. Just like that, a 1-0 nailbiter became a disappointing 2-1 decision.
  • It shouldn't have come down to that walk-off, but New York managed only seven hits off Tim Hudson and the Atlanta bullpen, going 1-6 with RISP and stranding eight.
The Good Stuff:
  • Despite not getting the final two outs, Gee was phenomenal on the mound, allowing three hits in the previous eight shutout innings with one walk and six strikeouts. At the very least, he registered his first complete game of the season.
  • Dillon's bat also came up big in the 7th, as he poked a single through the left side of the infield to plate John Buck and get the Mets on the board.
  • Lucas Duda went 4-4 with a double, collecting more than half the team's hits on the late night.
Final Analysis:
Wins and losses are moot at this point, so let's talk about Dillon Gee, who has finally settled back into good form. Did you know he's 3-1 with a 1.53 ERA in his last four starts? Or that he's struck out 32 and walked a mere four batters in 29.1 innings over those starts? Or that all four of those outings came against legitimate contenders (Yankees, Nationals, Cardinals, Braves) instead of cupcakes?

Suffice it to say, Dillon Gee is back, and he looks unlikely to lose his spot in the rotation. With Zack Wheeler primed to eventually replace Shaun Marcum in the rotation, the Mets finally have one piece of the puzzle completed in that they have a starting rotation that will keep them in the game much more often than not. The offense being able to reward the starters' efforts with wins, however, is an entirely different situation...


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Game #64: Mets 4, Cubs 3

Um...did that just happen?

After getting nothing going for eight innings, the Amazin's woke up with a vengeance in the 9th against Carlos Marmol, as Kirk Nieuwenhuis's walk-off three-run home run propelled the Mets to a stunning, blink-of-an-eye 4-3 comeback win over the Cubs.

The Good Stuff:
  • A 3-0 loss was a given as the game headed into the bottom of the 9th inning. The Mets, after all, had only managed three hits the entire afternoon against Matt Garza and company. But Chicago was about to do something that would give New York their best option: they went with embattled closer Carlos Marmol to sing a lullaby to the sleepwalking hosts. What the hosts got was the most effective alarm clock in recorded human history.
    • It started innocently enough with a 1-1 fastball to ex-Cub Marlon Byrd. That fastball turned into a long, long, long home run that landed well into the second deck of left field. The Mets were in business, and no one knew it better than Cubs fans who have seen Marmol implode over and over and over again.
    • After Lucas Duda drew a full-count walk, John Buck took a 2-2 fastball and lined it into right field to put two runners on.
    • Omar Quintanilla executed the perfect sac bunt to move both runners into scoring position, allowing the home team to play for the tie and the chance to win it in extras.
    • They wouldn't need extras: Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who need a base hit yesterday just to get on the Interstate, took Marmol's 1-0 fastball and sent a rocket off the Pepsi Porch in right field.
    • Nieuwenhuis rounded the bases after his walk-off heroics as Marmol dejectedly descended into the freshly-branded losers' dugout. He and the rest of his teammates an ecstatic Justin Turner take not just whipped cream but a full-fledged apple pie to Kirk's face. What any of the 30,000+ in attendance at Citi field wouldn't give for a taste of that Father's Day treat.
  • Meanwhile, Jeremy Hefner was taken off the hook for what would have been yet another tough loss, as he gave up three runs (one earned) on six hits in five innings, walking one and striking out five on 87 pitches.
  • David Wright and Lucas Duda each had doubles to the right field corner during failed rallies in earlier frames.
The Bad Stuff:
  • Nieuwenhuis's blast became the picture of the game, saving the Mets from a much more embarrassing one in the top of the 5th: down 1-0 with two on and two out, David Wright took a hard groundball from Alfonso Soriano, double clutched his throw, and watched it sail over Daniel Murphy's head at first. The Cubs' second run came around to score, thanks in part to a throw from Murphy that sailed past John Buck at the plate. A third run came in on another errant throw, this time one from Omar Quintanilla that also sailed past Buck.
    • On a play straight from Angels in the Outfield, the Mets seemed to signify their entire 2013 season. Now that we won the game, we can fortunately laugh about it.
Final Analysis:
Even with Carlos Marmol on the mound I didn't think the Mets could pull that off. Even after Byrd's home run I figured, "Well at least we weren't shut out." But that's the nature of baseball: a loss can turn into a win in the blink of an eye. Sure, New York hasn't done much winning in the last few weeks, but we'll remember this one for the rest of the season. Kirk Nieuwenhuis's heroics have enough fuel will carry us through another few weeks of losing. We're Mets fans. We know how to make due.



Saturday, June 15, 2013

Game #63: Cubs 5, Mets 2

Behold a game recap that took almost as long to write as the game itself.

Scott Rice and Brandon Lyon imploded in the 8th inning to allow the Cubs three insurance runs as the Mets offense failed to find traction in an agonizingly slow 5-2 loss.

The Bad Stuff:
  • With a more capable offense, a 2-1 deficit may have been surmountable. But 5-1? No chance, and that's what Scott Rice and Brandon Lyon combined to create in an 8th inning that put Chicago up for good.
  • After Jordany Valdespin drove in a run in the bottom of the 8th to put two runners on, New York had their best chance to get back into the game with their only two major-league hitters. But Daniel Murphy could only muster a productive groundout, and David Wright chased a slider in the dirt to doom the team's final rally.
The Good Stuff:
  • Jonathon Niese was stuck with the loss after allowing two runs in 5.2 innings, including six hits, four walks, and five strikeouts.
  • Murphy and Wright did combine for the team's first run, knocking back-to-back doubles in the 4th inning.
Final Analysis:
The least they could do at this point is get the game over with in less than three hours and thirty-two ticking minutes.


Friday, June 14, 2013

Game #62: Cubs 6, Mets 3

Not even a Foreigner concert would have made it worth it tonight. (Although let's be honest, could they have done any better in their prime?)

Shaun Marcum was hit hard and guys not named David Wright and Daniel Murphy were unable to hit as the Mets dropped the series opener to the Cubs 6-3.

The Bad Stuff:
  • Hard-luck Shaun Marcum has yet to win a game in 2013. The winlessness itself isn't anything he could control, but tonight at least he definitely deserved the L. Marcum surrendered six runs on seven hits in 5.2 innings, walking one and striking out four on 82 pitches en route to an 0-8 record.
  • New York as a whole hit decently with RISP (3-10), but leaving eight men on base counterbalanced the clutch hitting. The unclutch moments of the night belong to Lucas Duda, Juan Lagares, Shaun Marcum, and Marlon Byrd, who each failed to produce with two runners on in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th innings.
The Good Stuff:
  • David Wright continues to shine at the plate as he accomplished the rare feat of back-to-back three-hit, no run games. His 3-3 night at the plate brings his average back up to a very respectable .297.
  • Daniel Murphy was moved back to the two-slot for the night and responded by going 2-5 with a run and two RBIs.
  • Juan Lagares and Collin Cowgill (remember him?) each had extra-base hits: Lagares scored in the 3rd after a triple and Cowgill came in following a 7th-inning double.
Final Analysis:
As if it weren't obvious already, the five hits out of nine tonight should tell you that David Wright and Daniel Murphy carry this team offensively. Take them away and Mets fans would be lucky to see their nightly lineup scrape together one run, let alone three. It's a good thing starting pitching is being taken care of through the farm system (see you on Tuesday, Zack Wheeler, and hopefully you soon, Rafael Montero) because the answers to these Amazin' offensive woes are not going to come internally.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Game #61: Cardinals 2, Mets 1

Undefeated no more. But at least he got the decision.

Matt Harvey's stellar effort was rewarded with his first loss of the year as the sleepwalking Mets fell to the Cardinals 2-1.

The Bad Stuff:
  • Adam Wainwright owned the entire New York order like he owned Carlos Beltran in 2006 (as if the memories weren't painful enough), shutting out the Mets over seven four-hit innings. Wainwright improved to 10-3 on the season and saw his ERA drop to 2.18.
  • In the few chances the Amazin's got with RISP, they hit 0-4 and stranded eight men.
The Good Stuff:
  • Matt Harvey deserved far better, as he usually does. Harvey turned in his second straight seven-inning, one-run start, allowing five hits and a walk against seven strikeouts on 97 pitches.
  • Marlon Byrd saved the Mets from being shut out by the Redbirds as he launched a one-out solo home run off St. Louis closer Edward Mujica in the 9th. Byrd's 10th shot of the year puts him one behind John Buck and Lucas Duda for the team lead.
  • Byrd, Buck, and David Wright combined for all seven New York hits; Wright's three singles brought his average back up to .288.
Final Analysis:
Matt Harvey must feel like R.A. Dickey did in 2011: helpless. Were he pitching for any other team, #33 would have at least eight or nine wins. Instead, he'll settle for the second decision, and the first bad one, in his last 10 starts.

There isn't much left to say about the offense; it is what it is.


Game #60: Mets 5, Cardinals 1

What is this feeling that's put us in our place? A rush of hot blood straight to an up-slanted face? ...Oh, that's a win. Forgot how that felt.

David Wright and company gave the Home Run Apple a workout to back Dillon Gee's strong start as the Mets halted their losing streak with a 5-1 win(!) over the Cardinals.

The Good Stuff:
  • Just like last night, New York got on the board early with 1st-inning RBIs from Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda. Unlike last night, they got more runs later on. Many more runs, by current standards.
    • The first came in the bottom of the 4th when Lucas Duda sent one into the Mo-Zone for his 11th home run of the season (still only 22 RBIs).
    • In the 6th, David Wright gave Citi Field fans a preview of next month's Home Run Derby with a long solo shot to straight center field.
    • Then in the 7th, Marlon Byrd kept pace with both the previous team home run leaders with a solo homer to left.
  • Suffice it to say, Dillon Gee was pretty lucky to get such a cushion. Turns out he didn't need it: Gee went 6.2 innings, allowing just a solo homer to Allen Craig and five other hits, along with two walks; he also struck out seven on 107 pitches.
  • Scott Rice, Brandon Lyon, and Bobby Parnell combined for 2.1 perfect innings of relief to vault the Amazin's to just their second win in nine games since the Yankee sweep.
The Bad Stuff:
  • While the 3-6 hitters (Wright, Murphy, Duda, Byrd) combined to go 6-14, the 1-2/7-9 hitters combined for 0-16. Omar Quintanilla "led" the pack with a Golden Sombrero (four strikeouts).
Final Analysis:
Good feeling, won't you stay with me just a little longer?

It probably won't last. So enjoy this one, Mets fans. We won this one. The glory of baseball is that there's always another chance to win.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Game #59: Cardinals 9, Mets 2

There was no waking up from Sunday afternoon's shakeup. Just more and more Amazin's falling through the cracks.

Sloppy defense all around led to five unearned St. Louis runs in the top of the 5th as the Mets dropped the series opener to the Cardinals, 9-2.

The Bad Stuff:
  • Despite extending his "quality starts" streak, Jeremy Hefner earned his sixth L of the season, surrendering six runs (one earned) on eight hits in six innings, walking one and striking out two. The death knell for Hef came in the 5th inning when an error by Daniel Murphy set up a couple RBI groundouts, including a botched double play by David Wright; Allen Craig's three-run homer capped the five-run frame and guaranteed the Mets a seventh loss in eight games since the Yankee sweep.
  • The Met bullpen didn't fare much better, as Greg Burke served up two runs in the 7th and David Aardsma allowed his first run as a New York reliever.
  • After scrapping two runs off Michael Wacha in the first, New York could not find their offense, stringing together just five hits and stranding six men on base.
The Good Stuff:
  • Omar Quintanilla woke up the Home Run Apple from a long slumber with a solo shot in the bottom of the 1st.
  • Marlon Byrd's bases-loaded sac fly later in the inning brought home the Mets' only other run.
  • Jordany Valdespin had two hits in the leadoff slot.
Final Analysis:
During the few innings I actually watched tonight, Gary, Ron, and Keith were talking about how Mets fans would accept management if they simply told fans straight-up that the franchise was in rebuilding mode. I'm beyond expecting anything more in 2013; the sooner more Mets fans come to this realization, the better off we'll all be. I'm okay with making the rest of the year glorified tryouts; let's just make sure we find the right guys in this 100-game span to keep us from doing the same for 100 games in 2014.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Game #58: Marlins 8, Mets 4 (10)

After yesterday's endless misery, New Yorkers were treated to a bargain: today's soul-crusher only took half the time.

The Marlins pounded out 17 hits and scored four runs in the top of the 10th to once again sweep the Mets, 8-4.

The Bad Stuff:
The Good Stuff:
  • Jonathon Niese deserved far better than a no-decision, as he turned in the Mets' third quality start in two days with 6.2 innings of three-run (two earned), eight-hit ball, walking one and striking out four in his return to the mound.
  • David Wright and Daniel Murphy deserved better too: Murphy's solo shot in the 2nd got New York on the board, and Wright's two-run double in the 3rd put the team on top. The fourth run came in right after Wright's double, as a cleanup-hitting Murphy produced an RBI groundout.
Final Analysis:
June 9 is the day I often site as the day Ike Davis turned it around last season. Now, just one year later, he won't get that same chance. The difference of course is that last year the Mets were (somehow) in contention despite Ike's mighty struggles. This year, the team continues to bottom out with no sign of actually reaching that bottom yet. Terry Collins had no choice. He has to do something to get this team out of reverse. Are Satin, Edgin, Cowgill, and even Zack Wheeler the answer? No. The best the Mets can do at this point is get it into neutral, because the drive gear fell out in the Western snow of April. But for the sake of his job and the jobs of everyone who isn't a starting pitcher, David Wright, or Daniel Murphy, he has to try something. Anything. Because while they've been bad in the past few years, they've finally become nearly unwatchable. And you're reading the optimist's blog.