Sometimes last minute plans are the best plans. A spur of the moment decision led me to Citi Field to witness the Mets complete their sweep of the Nationals. The Mets, who have so often been on the butt end of a joke in recent memory, made a statement last night with the help of their fans that they aren’t fooling around.
After a bizarre couple of days around the trade deadline, I don’t think we need to recap what has already received enough coverage, the Mets played some of their best baseball when they needed it the most. Fantastic pitching performances and dramatic endings on Friday and Saturday set the stage for Sunday night.
I wasn’t even in the stadium yet and I knew it was going to be a different kind of night at the ballpark. While searching for tickets on Stubhub there were only 250 tickets available at the 5 o’clock hour. For those of you unfamiliar with the secondhand ticket service, there are generally an abundance of tickets available for Mets games. It’s not uncommon to see a few thousand tickets available on the cheap hours before a game. Not yesterday. Despite being an 8 o’clock game on a Sunday night, fans wanted to be there.
From the moment I stepped foot into Citi Field you could just feel the buzz. Something I may have felt in small doses while attending various opening day games, Harvey nights or during the All-Star game. But it wasn’t a passing moment. This energy was there for the long haul.
The third inning was something special in its own right. Curtis Granderson’s two-run shot brought the crowd to their feet. Daniel Murphy kept them up with a tape measure bomb on the very next pitch. Then Lucas Duda nearly brought the house down two batters later with a moonshot off of the Pepsi Porch facade. Citi Field was ROCKING.
From there on out it was a raucous crowd. Every opportunity the fans had to cheer, applaud or get on somebody – they did. Just ask Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth. Harper, who seems to have become public enemy No. 1, was on the brunt end of quite a bit of heckling. I’m all for giving opposing stars a hard time out there. After all, this is New York. A visiting club should never feel too comfortable in our city. That’s the way it should be.
In the top of the eighth inning Noah Syndergaard, who had been mowing down the Nationals lineup all night, had one more showdown with Harper with two outs and a pitch count well over 100. It felt reminiscent of the closing scene in ‘Major League’ with Rick Vaughn going mano-a-mano and his fastball lighting up the radar gun. The fans willed Syndergaard to get everything left out of that arm for one last batter as he touched 99 MPH on his final pitch right through Harpers swing. A standing ovation followed that led perfectly into the Piano Man sing-along between innings.
Wilmer Flores, who entered the game as a pinch hitter in the eighth, received possibly the loudest ovation of the night when he stepped up to the plate. “Willlllmerrr” echoed throughout Citi Field. The fan favorite ripped a ball into left center that was only a few feet shy of leaving the park. If that had gone out I think the crowd would still be cheering.
Newly acquired, and former National, Tyler Clippard closed things out to the chants of “SWEEP! SWEEP! SWEEP!” as the Flushing Faithful erupted for one last roar.
I’m not saying it’s time to start printing those postseason tickets. It’s still August. Early August at that. But this fan base so desperately needed that. I needed that. But what we really need is for that to be only the beginning of more nights like that things to come.
After suffering a brutal loss on Saturday (I witnessed it firsthand) the Mets have done what they have all season – bounced back.
Just a day after a bullpen meltdown led to an extra innings loss, Dillon Gee imploded on Sunday afternoon allowing eight runs in just 3 2/3 innings of work. It appeared the Mets were well on their way to a downward spiral as the life was sucked out of the ball club on back-to-back days. But then the often anemic offense came to life. Home runs by Darrell Ceciliani, Dilson Herrera, Travis d’Arnaud and Juan Lagares powered the Mets to a 10-8 come from behind win. Terry Collins didn’t take any chances with the bullpen this time around as Jeurys Familia completed a four out save.
Monday night appeared to be going down the same path as Saturday’s loss. Noah Syndergaard, after a first inning mistake to Jose Bautista, held a steamrolling Blue Jays lineup at bay throwing six innings while striking out 11. The Mets offense rallied in the bottom half of the sixth for two runs that put Syndergaard in line for a much deserved win. Familia was called upon once more for a four out save. He was able to work his way out of an inherited jam in the eighth, but didn’t fair as well in the ninth.
A tailing 97-MPH fastball that was sitting about six inches inside the plate was rifled down the left field line by Bautista, again, for his second long ball of the game. I have a hard time putting too much blame on Familia for that pitch. Nine out of ten times that pitch breaks a hitters bat. There are only a handful of players capable of hitting that ball, unfortunately Bautista is one of them. After exchanging zeros in the 10th, the Blue Jays put together a run in the 11th that had many thinking deja vu to Saturday afternoon. Once more the Mets showed their resiliency. Down to their final strike, Lucas Duda floated a single into left field against an outfield shift that allowed a running Michael Cuddyer on a 3-2 count to score all the way from first. Wilmer Flores followed that with a base hit up the middle that brought Duda home to win the game.
This Mets team isn’t perfect. In fact, they are far from it. There are plenty of flaws that we are quick to point out with this injury decimated roster. Yet no matter how questionable their lineup may look at times they have continued to play well enough to hang onto first place in the NL East. The Washington Nationals are still the odds on favorites and it seems inevitable they will eventually put a stretch together that allows them to surpass the Mets in the standings. However, it’s become rather clear that this Mets team will not go down this season without a fight.
Yesterday the Yankees and Mets each had a starter return to their respective rotations. Masahiro Tanaka, the ace of the Yankees staff, made his much-anticipated return to the mound. While Dillon Gee, who has become more commonly known as the odd man out, returned to the Mets.
Tanaka: 7 IP 3 H 1 ER 9 SO
Much has been made of Tanaka’s health since a small tear of his UCL in his right elbow was discovered last season. Rather than undergoing Tommy John Surgery, Tanaka chose rest and rehab. While some rolled their eyes at his decision, he was able to return to form late in 2014. However, it took less than a month into the 2015 season for another setback to occur. Although the two aren’t believed to be related issues, Tanaka spent the past month on the DL with a right elbow strain. Leaving many to wonder whether or not Tanaka made the right decision to forego surgery and was putting off the inevitable.
In the four starts Tanaka made before hitting the DL he did not look like the Cy Young candidate from last season. His fastball was sitting in the high 80’s as he was clearly holding himself back on the mound. I’m not sure what exactly happened in the month since his last start, but Tanaka seemed to have returned to form yesterday. His fastball was clocked as high as 96 MPH along the way to dominating the Seattle Mariners. With the AL East up for grabs, if Tanaka can stay healthy, and that’s a big if, the Yankees 1-2 punch with Michael Pineda and himself anchoring the rotation could make the Yankees the team to be within the division.
Gee: 4 IP 8 H 7 R 4 ER 1 SO
It’s been an interesting start, to say the least, for Gee’s season. Here’s a little rundown on his year to date:
- After being considered an expendable arm, he was openly shopped around the entire offseason
- Reluctantly awarded a spot in the rotation when Zack Wheeler underwent Tommy John Surgery in spring training.
- Then forced into a battle, for that same spot, with emerging young arms Rafael Montero, Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard for most of March.
- After suffering an injury that landed him on the 15-day DL, he was then replaced by Syndergaard in the rotation.
- Syndergaard seized his opportunity and excelled in his first few starts, causing the Mets front office to overly extend Gee’s minor league rehab assignment to buy Syndergaard more time at the major league level.
- Gee was recalled as part of the Mets plan for implementing a six man rotation, that will last for the foreseeable future, in an effort to limit the workload on the young arms.
There is a buzz that has surrounded most of this Mets rotation throughout the season. When Matt Harvey takes the mound, it’s an event in NYC. Jacob DeGrom, the reigning NL Rookie of the Year, is as cool as they come and he’s picked up right where he left off. Syndergaard, who has lived up to his “Thor”nickname, strikes fear into batters with his 6’6” 240 lb presence on the hill to go along with his fastball that flirts with 100 MPH at times. Even Bartolo Colon, who leads the staff in wins, has become must watch TV for the pure entertainment value (especially at the plate) he provides.
Then there’s Gee. When he’s listed as the probable starter, the game really has no feel to it. He gives fans a kind of “blah” feeling when he takes the mound. Sure he will keep the Mets in the game, for the most part, but he doesn’t provide any extra excitement that entices you to tune in. Yesterday didn’t help his cause in arguing against that point. He struggled in his return to get through his four innings of work. “It wasn’t as bad as it looked” said manager Terry Collins. I’m not sure which game you were watching, Terry, but yes, yes it was. With Steven Matz patiently awaiting a phone call, Gee is on a short leash to turn things around if he wants to hold onto his spot in the rotation.
At the end of the day, it was only the first start back for Tanaka and Gee. But each fan base was left with completely different emotions by their end results. Yankee fans were given hope that maybe they can put a strangle hold on the AL East, with no team differentiating themselves so far, if Tanaka can stay healthy and returns to form. While Mets fans were left scratching their heads as to why Gee is still hanging around.
The release of the MLB.com pitching prospect rankings should have been a good day for the Mets, and their fans, to boast about their pitching depth. But you didn’t have to look any further than the number one spot to be reminded that the Mets are still playing second fiddle to the Washington Nationals.
The Nationals 20-year-old right-hander Lucas Giolito was named the top pitching prospect in all of major league baseball. Noah Syndergaard, 22, of the Mets followed him in the rankings. Both Syndergaard (6’6″ 240) and Giolito (6’6″ 255) have big frames and are known for their power arms. Syndergaard is expected to start the season in Triple-A and could be promoted to the big leagues as soon as 2015. Giolito has never pitched higher than A-ball and is expected to start the year in Double-A. Although their timetables are slightly different, they will undoubtedly be compared to one another upon their arrival to the major league level.
Much has been made of the Mets young pitching. This is supposed to be the year they start to lead the organization back into relevancy and play meaningful games into late September, and then hopefully October. Although I don’t question the potential in the Mets rotation, the Nationals signing of Max Scherzer not only solidified themselves as the team to beat this year, but for years to come.
Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon is likely to be the Mets opening day rotation. I excluded Dillon Gee from this list because all signs point to him being traded in the near future. Minus Colon, this group is as young and talented as there is in the game. Harvey, before undergoing Tommy John Surgery, looked like a premier pitcher in the game. DeGrom was the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year. Wheeler has struggled with his command but showed his potential as a front-line starter in the second half of the season. Niese is a consistent lefty who provides stability. Colon will be the staffs innings eater who GM Sandy Alderson will likely look to trade come the All-Star break. Thus opening up a spot in the rotation for Syndergaard to make his debut sometime this summer.
Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez are projected to be the Nationals opening day rotation. That has the makings to be Atlanta Braves 1990’s good. In the event one of these starters is traded before the season, a more than formidable Tanner Roark will step right in. Giolito might be the top pitching prospect in the game, but the Nationals feel he is a year away. GM Mike Rizzo is well aware of what he has in Giolito and could be the reason why he would be okay with trading one of his soon to be free-agent starters. One hole that remains on the Nationals roster is their bullpen. Don’t be surprised if Giolito, assuming he continues to progress, is promoted to bolster the pen down the stretch. The more likely scenario would be Giolito joining the rotation in 2016 when a spot opens up due to trade or free agency.
There is no shame in having the second-best pitching prospect in baseball. These rankings are nothing more than someones personal opinion. And at the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is how these pitchers perform on the major league level. Despite many off-season rumors of teams asking for Syndergaard, the Mets were unwilling to part with him. They clearly view him as a big part of their future. Only time with tell if Syndergaard, along with the rest of the Mets young pitchers, will be able to out-duel the Nationals rotation in the years to come.
In unsurprising news, Jacob deGrom was named the NL Rookie of the month. It was hard to imagine deGrom NOT winning this award after going 4-1 with a 1.39 ERA in July.
Much has been made of the New York Mets pitching depth, and rightly so, but deGrom was a bit of an afterthought heading into the season. Although he was spoken of highly by the front office inner circle, Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero were supposed to be the rookies making an impact this year. While those two struggled early on, deGrom rose to the occasion and quickly made his presence known in the majors.
Degrom, is now 6-5 on the year with a 2.77 ERA. Those numbers are great for anyone, let alone a rookie. It isn’t just his raw stats that have impressed, but also his demeanor and mentality on the mound. DeGrom has that “it” factor, one that can’t be fully explained. He attacks a lineup in a fearless manor, challenging hitters at all times. Which is what has drawn the comparisons between Matt Harvey and himself. There repertoires may not be the same, but their desire to compete and win are similar, which has quickly won over this fan base.
When asked about the Rookie of the Year rumblings, deGrom struggled to even name the others in contention.
“I don’t know who they all are,” deGrom said. “I know Hamilton. Who else? I honestly really haven’t been paying attention to it.”
At this point, deGrom may have named the only competition he has. If deGrom isn’t widely known around the league by now, he will be soon.
We’ve all read and heard the praise of the Mets young starting pitchers, but not enough has been said regarding the arms in the bullpen. The Mets have quietly put together a young core, that has become a force, late in ballgames.
Sandy Alderson’s goal all along was to build this team around their pitching, and in 2014, that goal is becoming a reality. The starting rotation is stock full with young pitchers such as Dillon Gee, Zack Wheeler, Jonathon Niese and Jacob deGrom. Now add in future pieces Noah Syndergarrd, Rafael Montero, Steven Matz and Matt Harvey, who will return from his Tommy John surgery next season, and you have an abundance of arms to build your rotation around.
When you look back on playoff team success in recent years, there is always a common trait, a shutdown bullpen. It isn’t always the dominant offenses, but rather the teams that are able to shut down games by the 7th inning, that make deep runs. That is what the Mets are looking to put together. When closer Bobby Parnell went down, a major concern remained as to who the Mets would use to finish off ballgames. However, the combination of Vic Black, Josh Edgin, Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia, has stepped up and answered that question.
- Josh Edgin (27) 25 GP – 1.76 ERA
- Vic Black (26) 22 GP – 1.77 ERA 1.77 ERA
- Jeurys Familia (24) 44 GP – 2.11 ERA
- Jenrry Mejia (24) 25 GP – 2.42 ERA – 9 SV
The Mets made it official yesterday and announced Dillon Gee as their opening day starter. There had been grumblings about this for about a week or so now, so this news comes as a shock to no one.
Opening Day is all about a fresh start for a team and their fan base, a new beginning with endless possibilities. No matter how bad your team was last season, everyone comes into Opening Day with a glimmer of hope. For the Mets, our hope relies on our young starting pitching. Obviously this start we have been given to Harvey if healthy, but he’s not. Syndergaard became the story of spring training, but he won’t be seeing Citi Field until the summer. Dillon Gee, while reliable and effective, does not represent one of these talents, Zack Wheeler dos.
Wheeler, the prized return in the Carlos Beltran trade, has been looked upon as a building block since his arrival. Wheeler showed signs of his potential dominance and had us thinking he could be a major factor in leading this team back to the playoffs. This is the man who brings that promise and excitement with him each time he takes the mound, Wheeler needed to be given this start.
I’m not trying to knock on Dillon Gee, I’m actually a big fan of his. I believe he is a great piece to go along with the young power arms of Harvey, Syndergaard and Wheeler in the future rotation. If he can slide in as the team’s future #4 or #5 starter, I couldn’t be happier with that situation. Gee reminds me of a young Rick Reed, he doesn’t throw overly hard, but he moves the ball around and changes speeds to keep batters off-balance. Gee always keeps the Mets in the ballgame, but his style doesn’t exactly rile up the fans.
The Mets really missed the boat on this one, Wheeler’s presence alone would have been significant with one of our “big three” leading the way in 2014. In any case, this won’t matter in the long run of the season, but it would have added to the anticipation of what could come this year.