Steve Hussy has been a Mets fan since 1984. An insomniac as a kid, he watched baseball highlights at 4 AM on British TV. He credits Darryl Strawberry's long homers as the first cause of his obsession with the Mets. Now he gets to watch Mets games that finish at 3 AM and teach bleary-eyed lessons to his film students the next day. He also gets to shell out hundreds of pounds to fly over to New York and watch the Mets occasionally win. Steve Hussy's other job is as a writer and editor for Murder Slim Press, which specialises in confessional and crime literature. You can find out more about him on MurderSlim.com. Just no threats, please.
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Mets Game 83: Win Over Dodgers

wilmer-la

Mets Ø (sorry, 8) Dodgers 0

Much as it’s tempting to glance at the box score and assume the Mets played out a 0-0 draw over 20 innings before everyone passed out through sheer boredom, that isn’t a funky European Ø with a slash through it. It’s an eight. I had forgotten what they looked like.

After subjecting myself to the FOX coverage of the Mets game on Saturday, the dire mumbling and stumbling commentators did at least raise one point of value. The Mets were second to the Royals in hard hit balls in the major leagues. Second? I figured the Mets would only be second in errors.

Have we found the Twilight Zone? These numbers are baffling. And they raise another question. Have the Mets been unlucky this year on offense?

I can’t see it myself, and I’ve seen the vast majority of the Mets innings this season. But this game highlighted what a little luck can do. Out of the Mets 15 hits, only Wilmer Flores double in the 8th was a true liner (and even that narrowly shaded inside the left field line). Flores and Curtis Granderson’s other doubles were ripped grounders between Justin Turner and the line (six feet away from an out) and Juan Lagares “triple” (a.k.a. a laughable error by Yasiel Puig) would have been an out if not for that pesky sun in Los Angeles. L.A. rarely catches the sun so poor Puig’s shades couldn’t deal with the glare. We saw bloops (a couple from Murph), infield hits (nice cue shot from Grandy), and tricklers through vacated positions (Tejada’s grounder in the 4th).

On the pitching side, Stephen Matz got through six innings and Terry didn’t push him out there again in the seventh despite Matz being on just 101 pitches. Thank-you, Terry. Matz fell behind in the count throughout his outing, but he was able to pinpoint his fastball to catch up. His change was a little off – hence he didn’t use it much – but his curve was fine. He made Puig feel even more enigmatic/grumpy as he struck out on one. It’s impossible not to be impressed by the poise of Matz.

For the Mets to win two against the Dodgers in L.A. is a genuine achievement, despite the Dodgers not kicking on after their fast start to the season. Wilmer went 10 for 13 in the series, and his OPS has shuffled just above .700 again. Is being back at second making him feel more comfortable?

Lucas Duda and Michael Cuddyer continue to look lost at the plate, with a desperate Lucas swinging at curves way down and fastballs way up. Cuddyer also doesn’t see any pitches he doesn’t want to pop up. Meanwhile, Matz put in another professional AB to drive in a run on a slow grounder, so he could spell these guys in the Twilight Zone we’ve entered.

They’ll call this game a laugher. Well, I needed cheering up. So thank-you for this. The Mighty Morphin’ Power Mets will hopefully take down the Giants in the next three game set. I’m not banking on it, but then those guys are on a six game losing streak… including three against the Giancarlo Stanton-free Marlins. Huh?

The world doesn’t make any sense any more. But we are entering a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. I just hope the Mets exploit that and surprise us all.

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Mets Game 71: Loss To Braves

degrom-mask

Braves 1 Mets 0

Sorry for the delay in getting this report out, but I have my reasons. 30 minutes after watching the Mets lose 1-0 to the Braves on Sunday, I had to rush to the toilet to vomit and then suffer the shakes and further sickness for another 24 hours. Is this what the Oh No Mets are doing to everyone?

Well, it was more of a coincidence. A family member picked up a stomach bug the day before and I’d gone into the contaminated zone to nurse them. But nausea and pain have gone hand in hand with the Mets recently.

The most telling image was Jacob DeGrom earlier in the week, who was pitching beautifully before the bullpen and defence lost the game. The camera cut to DeGrom on the bench. Where was his head? Had he decapitated himself out of frustration? Nope, the poor guy had just hidden behind the top of the bench so the camera couldn’t see the endless expletives he must have been saying. Jacob’s sullen face then dropped and looked at the ground.

You probably watched the game on Sunday and felt the same. Matt Harvey’s fastball and slider were working well and, once he fought through the first couple of innings, his only real issue was hanging a few curves. The Braves eventually scored on Harvey’s 112th and 115th pitches (in 90+ degree heat… hmm?) – on a scorched double from Levarnaway that almost cleared the fence and then a little bloop from Ciriaco. Juan Lagares launched a strong throw home (you know, that arm he’s supposed to be protecting) but it was off line.

The only vague moment of interest for the Mets was when they got runners on first and second in the ninth with one out. Then Michael Cuddyer topped the ball to third base for an easy double play. For a “gap to gap hitter,” Cuddyer is aiming a lot for the smallest gap on the field – between shortstop and third base. And why did the Mets keep trying to reach out and pull Julio Teharan (whose last outing gave up 14 hits and 6 runs to the B.O. Sox), who happily threw sliders and dinky fastballs just outside? The Mets were twitchy, pulling the trigger too early.

I know chicks dig the long ball and dudes like strikeouts, but guys like me and you and Joe on MetsToday like a crispy played game. Since the first away game with Toronto I started writing down the most horrific defensive gaffes from the Mets players, many of which cost runs. Not only that, they extend innings, dragging out the starters – hardly ideal in that 90+ degree heat.

Anyway, here goes: Grandy misses easy foul top up, Flores fails to time leap for easy catch, Herrera doesn’t cover second but Plawecki throws it there anyway on a steal, Lagares boots the ball, d’Arnaud has to catch a ball so far down the third base line his arm is nearly ripped off by the runner (and now he’s on the DL), poor baserunning, overthrowing the cut-off man (at least twice), failure to turn the double play x 3, Cuddyer lousy coming in on a soft liner, Lagares struggling to go back. The only starter who didn’t make some mental error was Lucas Duda. But you tell me if he did. I missed a bunch of stuff because I spent lots of time bashing my forehead against the screen.

I can take the Mets losing two against Toronto. But three against the AAA Braves? And here’s the worrying thing, I thought the Mets would fly in June given a soft schedule. Well, the only way they do that if it they REALLY beat up on the lousy Brewers and Reds. Because after that there are nine games against the Cubs, the Dodgers and the Giants. 2-7 in those games? I still haven’t reached Izzy/Nat (he’s back!) psychotic anger but even my optimism is being tested. Where are my pills?

I’ll finish on nice stuff. Father Stokes from THE WALKING DEAD was in the crowd. He’s a Mets fan and showed more animation than the zombiefied Mets. And Keith and Ron did a nice job on commentary. If I have one minor comment, it’s that Gary’s slightly higher pitched and speedier voice contrasts more distinctively with Keith and Ron’s laid-back tones. But their soothing voices

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Mets Game 64: Win Over Braves

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Mets 10 Braves 8

Why the heck was Dillon Gee starting this game? We’ll get to the comeback win later on, but the whole Gee thing is ludicrous. He moped around the mound, and rightly so. He’s pitching very poorly and leaving most pitches up, but some of that is because he’s utterly confused.

Gee threw gently gliding fastballs at the same 91mph speed and in exactly the same place while his change-up lazily hung waist high. You know you’re in trouble when Jace Peterson hits you for a home run. But Gee shouldn’t be in this position.

“Dillon, you’re in a six man rotation.”
“Hold on, sorry, Dillon, you’re in the bullpen.”
“Hold on, Dillon, you’re now in a ‘soft’ six man rotation. Just be ready to pitch sometime but we really value your contribution to our company and aren’t phasing you out. Really. Honestly.”

The answers to the Mets’ manipulation of Gee are, of course, obvious. There’s the Super-2 deadline with Stephen Matz (which has now seemingly passed). There are also the fluffy comments on not overpitching the Mets’ young arms (as long as you’re not Jeurys Familia). And there’s the $5.3m the Mets will grudgingly be forced to pay most of when they trade Gee for a AA batboy.

Gee strikes me as less hard-nosed than many baseball players. He needs encouragement that he’s doing a good job. He struck a disconsolate figure on the bench between the almost-four innings of Sunday’s horror. A silent Travis d’Arnaud sat awkwardly next to him. What could d’Arnaud do? Tell Gee he did matter to the team? Or send a quick tweet to Alderson to sort this out?

The sensible option would have been to tell Gee he’s a long relief pitcher this year. No messing around with the hint of starting pitching unless there was a long-term injury. Take your $5.3m and then run.

Gee was vocal about how he felt devalued by the team. That’s always a bad move, because you’re labelled as “hard to manage.” And he should have held back until this current mess. “I’m going to work in the bullpen as hard as possible” would have been a more PR savvy response. But you can only say that to an easy question. This mismanagement defies an easy answer for the guy.

The game itself was between the Atlanta Rangers and New York Blue Jays, who slugged 18 runs. Darrell Ceciliani’s homer was particularly crushed. Captain Kirk Version 2.0 is starting to kick into gear, perhaps due to the threat of a roll back the original version. They both strike out a lot, both field well (Ceciliani’s throw to home last night was great), and both will be on the fringes of outfields for their career.

Curtis Granderson got three hits in the game… all through where Fredi Gonzalez should have put a shift if he actually paid attention to games. You can’t blame Gonzalez for his pitchers leaving breaking balls high (Lagares, d’Arnaud and Herrera all dumped home runs to left on tee-balls) but you can blame him for this. He did the same with Duda too. Duda almost hit an excuse-me double down the left field line in the first, but that’s a one-in-a-hundred chance. Granderson is pulling EVERYTHING. He has to because he’s compensating for his age. Braves’ fans should be fuming.

After years of Mets fans being saddled with too many great teams in their division, the NL East has become little league. Remember the endless misery of watching the Braves’ pitchers every year, or Philadelphia shellacking the Metsies, or the Marlins sudden rises to success? I don’t care who the Mets beat, just keep beating them repeatedly. The Bizarro Mets – the actual Toronto Blue Jays – are next. They have a lot of hitting and a little pitching. Two utterly different teams on exactly the same record, both in largely weak divisions. And both are maybe Wild Card teams who’ll probably split their series 2 and 2. Ah, parity! You give everyone hope. Somewhere Bud Selig is hanging upside down and smiling.

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Mets Game 58: Win Over Diamondbacks

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Mets 6 Diamondbacks 3

Last week, I said that it would be an achievement if the Mets finished their NL West road trip with a 4-3 record. The Metsies fell one game short at 3-4 but a half game up in the NL East. And they saved the best for last with an efficient win over the Diamondbacks, a team who seem to collect more logos than wins. They have a curly snake logo on their caps, a diamond “A” shaped one, a “db” snake on their arm and an ugly Dbacks one on their chests. Get classy, guys… get pinstripes.

The Mets’ only blip was Eric Campbell’s throwing error in the first that eventually led to a couple of runs. But you can be forgiven when you launch a line drive two-run homer in the next inning.

I’m still trying to figure out Campbell, especially on defense. He’s the Mets fourth option over there but he seems steady enough. He made a nice barehanded play that Owings beat out for a bunt single RBI. I also think Campbell’s a better hitter than his current numbers because his 0 for 168 (or whatever it was) is still dragging him down. He’s got a level swing and a little patience.

Wilmer Flores hit another homer to almost exactly the same spot as Campbell and added a pretty defensive play, snagging a hard hit ball in the ninth and throwing over to get Saltalamacchia. Salty can barely move, but Wilmer still did a nice job.

Wilmer is on a nice little eight game hitting streak and the switch from chewing gum to bubble gum seems to have improved his game. For a guy forced into learning on the job, he’s slogging his guts out. If you watch Wilmer’s face when he fields and bats, he rarely blinks. His eyes must hurt because he’s trying to concentrate so much.

My other favourite player (yet perennial figure of apathy) is Curtis Granderson, who cranked out two home runs to deep right. As Granderson ages, he’s torquing his body even further around. He’s becoming a corkscrew, and that exaggerated twist means that he doesn’t always keep his eyes level. He’s now pulling everything. Opposing teams: keep the infield shift and add an outfield shift too.

You know that Babe Ruth was also famous for torquing his body? Curtis is smart enough to have studied the great man, and I think he’s doing it to compensate for his lack of bat speed. Both homers were off breaking balls and Curtis is a breaking ball hitter who walks (or strikes out) to pitches he can’t catch up to. But I’ll say this again… his OBP is .345 and that ain’t bad. And he’s trying to fulfil a role in a line-up shorn of a bunch of its big hitters. Cut the Grandyman some slack, just for me.

Jacob deGrom was Jacob deGrom again, and in his last two starts he’s been stellar on the road. He spotted his fastball nicely, but his change-ups really caught my eye. DeGrom is a relaxing pitcher to watch. He works quickly and fields his position well. How did scouts miss this guy’s talent? He reminds me of the Dick Van Dyke character in Bilko (only older readers will get that). He’s a lanky and almost goofy athlete capable of everything.

The only downside in the game was an interminable eighth inning where the Mets padded their lousy stolen base numbers by adding four off the Diamondbacks’ J.C. Ramirez. If you thought Steve Trachsel was slow to the plate, watch this guy. We have a new “Human Rain Delay” in Ramirez. That meant the newly christened “Speedster” Eric Campbell stole two bases. I passed out after fifteen minutes and when I woke up the Mets had scored another run. I don’t know how and I refuse to watch the inning again to find out.

The Mets return home with a half game lead over the Nationals, who continue to stagger me with their relatively lousy record. I still think they’ll have a 10 game winning streak at any time, and they have to win 90+ games. But, you know what, the Mets have a nice run of games in June.

July might be the killer for the Mets… check out their schedule for then…. ouch. Will d’Arnaud be firing by then? Will Familia’s electric arm have exploded? Will Wilmer be eating popping candy?

Ah, just enjoy the ride. I am… and I’m still convinced the Mets are only $10m or so from being a contender. Hmm… maybe that’s the key. Will the purse strings be loosened?

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Mets Game 51: Win Over Marlins

bartolomania

Mets 4 Marlins 3

At the start of the season, the Mets and Marlins seemed likely to be duking it out for second spot in the NL East. The Marlins have sunk since then, while the Mets have rode a cut-rate subway fare to a little success. Things will even out, but I’ve still got the Mets just that little higher.

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Mets Game 38: Win Over Brewers

Mets 5 Brewers 1

Hmm… and they said that pigs couldn’t fly.

As the Mets scored 10 runs in an inning last night, hovering out of my window was a cute little pig with the words “Mets’ Offense” written on its side. And while he struggled a little more tonight, he’s still there, spinning around his curly tail to stay airborne.

Like most Mets fans – and the stadium looked full – I watched this game to see Noah Syndergaard and to hear many references to Thor. If only his early line drive had got past Carlos Gomez (“Thor hammered that”) or his curveball had been a little sharper (“Thor dropped the hammer on him”).

The most notable incident in the Mets’ 5-1 win was Carlos Gomez getting plunked on his ear flap by a fastball from Syndergaard. It was ugly to watch. Syndergaard remained rooted to the mound. He naturally tends to stare forward, blinking only occasionally, but you could see him shaking. He’d previously made Gomez look foolish on a curve and Gomez’s helmet – in the style of Bartolo Colon – had flown off his head.

Hey, I know chinstraps might not look cool, but they’d be much safer. But Gomez thankfully seems to be ok. He’s a great player, a honed version of the rough edged and skinny kid who played for the Mets.

Syndergaard was interesting to watch. His fastball is laser straight, but he used it particularly well to get strikes in the upper-in quadrant to lefthanders. He looked decent against righthanders too, and scratched out of a jam in the sixth. He touched 99mph to Braun in that inning, and could rear back and throw 96-98mph at will. There’s no lateral movement to his fastballs but – like Robles showed in eighth – the pace of the pitches unsettles the batters. Forget the chinstrap, I’d want a suit of armor.

It was interesting to see him lined up against Wily Peralta. Peralta won 17 games last year and his fastball – again touching high 90s at times – dances around. It ducks predominantly down and away from right handed hitters. Peralta’s stuff is amazing. But he sulked around the mound as his curves weren’t called for strikes, and he became increasingly surly and wild.

I often wonder what the point is of complaining with the home plate umpire. Daniel Murphy is the poster child for pointless arguments. The umpire was equally tight with Syndergaard’s curves, and he should have struck out Scooter Gennett on a 1 and 2 pitch in the fifth. But what can you do? I refuse to think an umpire is biased, and their strike calls are constantly monitored. We also have “Mr. Boxy” on Fox TV, an annoying white box hovering over the strike zone who is intently watching them.

The Mets five runs were largely because they kept hitting Peralta’s breaking stuff. Campbell chased a double over the third base bag and Duda clonked another double to the right field wall to score the Mets’ second run. Curtis Granderson also hit a long, long home run to lead off the game.

Granderson can now seemingly only hit pitches low and inside. But the experiment with him hitting leadoff is sort of working. His OBP is .359, which is serviceable. He struggles on defense and his arm strength has declined even further… although not as much as Khris Davis’ lousy throw on Cuddyer’s two-run single.

I’ll confess here I just like Curtis Granderson. Watching baseball in the UK wasn’t easy until the mid 1990’s. I had to watch late-night highlight shows or find ways to listen to Mets’ broadcasts. In the mid-90s a new TV channel started, Channel 5, who showed live baseball two times a week.

Fast-forward to the mid-2000’s and Granderson would appear on the Channel 5 show. I can’t imagine he was paid anything (the show aired live from 1am), yet a guy who was tearing it up for the Detroit Tigers took the time to be insightful and funny to try and broaden the appeal of the sport in my scummy little country.

I have my fingers crossed each time Granderson bats and – as Joe has said – it’s not his, or Wilmer Flores‘, or Michael Cuddyer’s fault that he’s been put into a defensive situation where his skills are exposed. Eric Campbell epitomizes the Mets team: bit-part defenders thrust into full-time roles. They’re good enough to beat the poorest teams in the NL, but are they good enough against the best?

Due to that, I have a crash mat for my flying pig against the Cardinals tomorrow. But we’ll see. He’s a nice little fella to have around and he can fly as long as he wants. The Cards are struggling somewhat but they’re a tight, well organised team. If the Mets split the four game series, that will be something positive. Will it be enough to stay ahead of the fast rising Nationals? Probably not.

Ah, well…

Mr. Alderson… exhaling a deep breath sounds an awful lot like a sigh. But I’ve still got my money – literally – on the Mets being the fifth best team in the NL. And that’s something. Something.

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