New York Mets: Luis Rojas talks recently improved bullpen

New York Mets, Luis Rojas

The New York Mets are 5-9, good for last place in the National League East. Their latest loss came Friday night at the hands of the red-hot division rival Miami Marlins, 4-3, at Citi Field.

All in all, the Mets bullpen has been shaky this season, as they’ve blown three leads in the seventh inning or later, all leading to losses. Last season the Mets bullpen recorded a 4.99 ERA. At the same time, they’ve been much better over the last week, tossing a combined 14 scoreless innings.

Mets manager Luis Rojas alludes to relievers “attacking the zone” as the impetus for the bullpen’s improvement (quotes per Jared Schwartz of the New York Post).

“It’s just attacking the zone,” Rojas said after the game. “That first batter is key. First guy you’re gonna face coming out of the bullpen, that’s key. You’re setting the tone. Everyone’s looking from the dugout, everyone wants to see how your command is, what you’re mixing. Off of that, they know what type of approach they’re going to bring. They know what you have. Everyone is prepared against each pitcher in the bullpen, knowing the history and the data that’s collected by all teams. But once they witness you out there, what you’re commanding, if you’re attacking on that first hitter, later in the game guys will go after those early pitches.”

Rojas feels his relievers are setting the tone.

“It’s really good to set the tone with that first batter you face. I think that’s been key for the bullpen over the last few days.”

Edwin Diaz, who owned a 7.71 ERA after his first three appearances this season, has surrendered one baserunner over his last three appearances — which were non-save situations; Jeurys Familia sports a 3.18 ERA; Seth Lugo owns a 2.57 ERA.

The Mets play the Marlins on Saturday in the second game of a three-game set.

New York Mets: Matz Struggles, Kendrick Dominates in 5-3 Loss

The first two starts for New York Mets starter Steven Matz had promise that he could step up as their two starter. His third start of the season disrupted the momentum he was building. The Washington Nationals took advantage of Matz’s inability to pitch inside and knocked him out of the game after three innings to win 5-3.

Matz struggled to control his four-seam fastball throughout the start. Despite throwing 78 pitches in only three innings, he did not walk anyone. The Nationals worked him into deep counts and continued to put the ball in play against Matz. He allowed seven hits, five runs, and two home runs.

Solo home runs from Howie Kendrick in the first inning, and Josh Harrison in the second got the Nationals out to an early 2-0 lead. The Nats tacked on three more runs in the third, and it was all they needed on the night. Kendrick led the way with four hits, which brought his average to an even .300 on the short season.

Despite Matz’s struggles, the Mets bullpen hurled six shutout innings to keep the Mets in the game. The combination of Paul Sewald, Jeurys Familia, Dellin Betances, and Edwin Diaz only allowed three hits. It was most encouraging to receive good outings from Betances and Diaz, who the Mets need to pitch well if they want any chance to turn around their season.

Conforto Stays Hot

The Mets needed offensive production from their outfield as three-quarters of their starting infield is dealing with injuries. Robinson Cano landed on the 10-day IL, while Jeff McNeil and Amed Rosario are day-to-day. Michael Conforto came into the matchup with Nationals starter, Patrick Corbin, with ten hits, including four home runs. His two-run home run was their only base hit on the night and opened up their scoring.

Pete Alonso struck out twice on the night, but his RBI single provided the third Mets run. He still is in the midst of a season wide slump, but at least recording one hit and a walk is a step in the right direction. Moving Alonso down in the order would strengthen the Mets offense until he starts to return to his 2019 form.

Andres Gimenez was the only Mets to record multiple hits on the night. He replaced the injured Rosario at shortstop and made a couple of solid defensive plays as well. The play of Gimenez has quickly moved him from the 30th man on the roster to a player they cannot afford to send back to their training site.

The Mets continued their lousy baseball in the eighth when Brian Dozier was thrown out as second base while the Mets had the tying run at the plate. Dozier attempted to advance when a ball trickled away from Yan Gomes, and after being called safe, the replay review overturned the call.

The Mets also left ten runners on base, despite recording ten hits on the night. Their lack of ability to record any hit other than a single is halting their offense.

This sums up the Mets’ horrible start to the season as another veteran makes an unexcused mistake. Mickey Callaway may longer be the manager, but his presence remains with how this year’s team plays.

On Wednesday, Rick Porcello tries to get the Mets a split of the two-game series. He has his work cut out for him as he faces Nationals ace, Max Scherzer. The first pitch is at an unusual 6:05 p.m. ET from Nationals Park.

New York Mets: Cespedes Absence and Opt Out Looms Over 4-0 Loss

New York Mets, Yeonis Cespedes

It was the same story but a different day for the New York Mets, but the mysterious absence then opt out of Yoenis Cespedes became the talk of the game in their 4-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves. As for the players who were on the field, they failed to take advantage of ten hits in the shutout.

It was another chapter in the book of stupidity from the franchise. There were multiple reasons why the Mets made a dumb decision by releasing their statement as early as they did. Brodie Van Wagenen released it shortly after game time, and it became more talked about than the game itself. The Mets also released the statement knowing as much information as we did. They could have held off on releasing any statement at all until they received any new information.

We had to wait until the game ended to find out Cespedes is opting out for the rest of the season. It is a sad ending to a tenure that started in brilliance in 2015. Like we saw with other Cespedes teams in the past his attitude and character forced him to move from team to team. It was clear that his performance was the dictating factor for his opt-out, using “COVID” reasons for his opt-out. Should he have played well, there is no reason why he would not have remained with the team.

There Was a Game Today?

At this point, it is comical at how bad the Mets are at driving in runs. They continued their struggles with runners in scoring position, going 1-for-15, and leaving 13 total runners on base. Strikeouts and double plays kill the Mets as well. They had 11 on the day, and both double plays killed key rallies. For once, the Mets received decent pitching, but the offense, like Cespedes, was absent.

David Peterson gave the Mets another solid start to build on his debut. The rookie pitched six innings, allowing two runs and striking out eight. Peterson used his slider to keep the Braves off-balance, and it helped get swing and misses on his fastball. He also ran into trouble during the third and fourth innings, which could have ended his outing early. Peterson got stronger after that, retiring the final eight batters he faced.

Edwin Diaz pitched after Peterson and immediately walked the first batter he faced. It prompted a visit from pitching coach Jeremy Hefner, and it looked like he did a majority of the talking to get Diaz’s mind in check. Diaz responded great by recording a strikeout and getting a soft liner that Robinson Cano turned into a double play. The outing is a good step in the right direction for Diaz’s attempt to revive his career.

Hot and Cold

Jeff McNeil and Robinson Cano continued doing all they could to attempt to get the Mets on the board. McNeil added another three hits to move his average up to .343, and Cano recorded a hit that extended his hitting streak to 6-games.

Pete Alonso had the worst looking game of his season-long slump. He went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and left six runners on base. Alonso’s lack of approach showed an anxious hitter who is overthinking at the moment. There is no doubt that he will find his way out of it, but manager Luis Rojas has to think about dropping him in the order until he at least puts together better at-bats.

At 3-7 on the season, they need a tremendous turnaround or a season cancellation to put themselves out of their misery. With the way they are driving runs now, there is no end in sight for the Mets failures. On Monday, the Mets attempt to avoid the sweep as Jacob deGrom takes the mound in an attempt to end the five-game losing streak. He faces off against his Opening Day counterpart Mike Soroka. The first pitch is at 7:10 p.m. ET.

New York Mets: Edwin Diaz talks early-season struggles

New York Mets, Edwin Diaz

Across his three appearances in the 2020 MLB season (2.1 innings), New York Mets closer Edwin Diaz has surrendered two earned runs, two hits, three walks and a home run, which equates to a 7.71 ERA, a 9.53 FIP and a 2.14 WHIP. He has converted one of two save opportunities.

Diaz appeared in back-to-back games against the Atlanta Braves to begin the season (July 24 and 25). He then didn’t make an appearance out of the bullpen until July 30 against the Boston Red Sox, where he threw 35 pitches and got just one out.

Diaz feels that not throwing for five days affected his mechanics (quotes per Mike Puma of the New York Post).

“It had been five days since I last threw, so I felt I didn’t have my mechanics in order,” Diaz said before the Mets suffered a crushing 11-10 loss to the Braves. “I felt like my body just wasn’t in sync and I felt like I was trying to overpower the pitches too much at that point.

“Five days without pitching isn’t the same when you are more and more accustomed to pitching three days in a row or sometimes one day and then two days after. It’s a little bit different when you have that much of a layoff.”

Even if Mets manager Luis Rojas makes a switch in the late innings, Diaz simply wants to “pitch more frequently.”

“I’m open to pitching whenever, so that doesn’t matter to me,” Diaz said. “It’s just one of those things where I would like to pitch more frequently as opposed to having those longer layoffs.”

Despite his early-season struggles, Diaz feels he has the “stuff to be a closer.”

“I feel like I have the stuff to be a closer,” Diaz said. “I have proven over the last four or five years that I have the stuff and I can be the closer because I have done it before. Whether it’s here or wherever I think I am a closer.”

Diaz is in his second season with the Mets, who are 3-6. The right-hander recorded a 5.59 ERA, a 4.51 FIP and a 1.38 WHIP in 2019.

New York Mets’ Edwin Diaz in danger of losing closer gig

New York Mets, Edwin Diaz

After his latest ninth-inning blowup, New York Mets‘ closer Edwin Diaz might be in danger of losing the title, after manager Luis Rojas said after Thursday’s game that “we need to talk” about possibly removing him from the role.

Diaz, who came to the New York Mets before the start of last season alongside Robinson Cano from the Seattle Mariners, keeps struggling to find the strike zone and shows a perplexing inability to miss bats with his high-90s heater.

If you look at the numbers, Diaz’s last appearance on Thursday against the Red Sox wasn’t a complete disaster, as he struck out one batter while allowing one earned run on one hit and two walks. But it was the last inning, the Mets lost, and it has been a recurring occurrence.

Will the Mets make a change?

Put in context, Diaz retired just one of the five batters he faced, and that ain’t going to cut it. “We need to talk,” Rojas said. “That’s something that we’re going to do as a staff, me as the manager, and we’ll talk with the player. We want to keep him on track to what he showed us in camp that he didn’t show tonight. It’s something that, from our coaching standpoint, we’ve got to detect right away and just work on it, fix it quick. Because we liked what we saw in the first two camps and what we saw earlier in the season. Tonight was definitely different.”

This season, Diaz has handed three free passes in 2.1 innings, for a 11.57 BB/9. He has a 7.71 ERA and a blown save, and last season, he had seven of those.

“Different Díaz than what I saw [in the] first camp,” Rojas said to MLB.com. “Different Díaz than what I saw in camp now, and then what I saw the first two outings. Arm-side misses, pulling the ball, slider backing up. Not the same Díaz we’ve seen recently.”

If the Mets do decided to remove Diaz from closing duties, they may have several candidates to replace him. The most natural one is Jeurys Familia (4.91 ERA, 2.26 FIP in 2020,) but Seth Lugo, Justin Wilson and Dellin Betances could also be options.

New York Mets: Vazquez Outslugs the Mets Offense in 4-2 Loss

New York Mets, New York Yankees, Steven Matz

For the second straight night, the New York Mets could not figure out a way to quiet the bat of Boston Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez. He terrorized the Mets with two home runs, which provided the three of the four runs the Red Sox needed to escape Queens with a two-game sweep. Just like Wednesday’s loss Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes failed to tie the game in the eighth inning.

The Mets would love that type of day from anyone in their lineup as all they could muster was three hits off Red Sox starter Martin Perez. Jeff McNeil provided two of them, and one of his hits brought in the only two Mets runs.

Struggling Offense

The biggest issue for the Mets is their inability to drive in runners with scoring position. They went 1-for-10 in those situations, leaving nine runners on base. There were too many strikeouts when a ball put in play could have resulted in a run. For such a powerful lineup, the Mets are struggling to make solid contact, and when they do, all they hit are singles.

The Red Sox had a game plan to neutralize the Mets’ power with breaking balls, and it paid off. When the Mets laid off or continued to foul off the breaking balls, they surprised them with a fastball and left them flat-footed.

Battle of the Lefties

Martin Perez and Steven Matz both did not have their best stuff but pitched well enough to deserve victories. Matz went 5.1 innings, allowing eight hits and three runs while striking out three batters. The two homers from Vazquez were the only extra-base hits Matz allowed.

Perez worked around trouble all night but kept the bats neutralized. Over 5.2 innings, he battled through two hits and four walks. Perez also struck out five on the night, a number higher than usual for him.

Bullpen Good, Diaz Bad

The Mets bullpen rebounded from their hiccups in Wednesday’s loss. Drew Smith and Jeurys Familia combined for 2.2 hitless innings in relief of Matz. They each struck out two batters, and both looked like they were in midseason form.

Manager Luis Rojas turned to Edwin Diaz for the first time since his blown save on Saturday. Diaz looked awful and had no command of the strike zone. He walked two batters, hitting one, and allowing once run. It looked even worse when Paul Sewald came in two easily get the final two outs of the inning.

It was the same Diaz from 2019, and he looked mentally drained already. Once either Brad Brach or Jared Hughes returns from the COVID-19 injured list, there is no reason for Diaz to remain on the roster. Especially when the roster shrinks, there has to be a real consideration of removing Diaz and sending him to MCU Park to figure himself out.

The Mets hope to turn things around in Atlanta against the Braves. The same matchup from Sunday Night Baseball returns as Rick Porcello takes on Sean Newcomb in game one of their four-game weekend series. The first pitch is at 7:10 p.m. ET from Truist Park.

 

New York Mets: Diaz Returns to 2019 Form in 5-3 Loss

New York Mets, Edwin Diaz

It seemed like a game straight out of 2019. Edwin Diaz looked all but certain to lock down a save in back to back games, but a Marcell Ozuna solo home run changed things. The New York Mets fell to 1-1 on the season as they could not respond to the three runs the Atlanta Braves scored in the top of the 10th.

Things ran smoothly for 26 outs, but the Mets could not buckle down the 27th. Steven Matz gave the Mets six strong innings, only allowing one run while striking out seven. The bullpen trio of Jeurys Familia, Dellin Betances, and Justin Wilson got the game to the ninth inning. Diaz retired the two and three-hitter, but he could not sneak a fastball past Ozuna. After he deposited the ball over the right-field fence, the flood gates opened.

Extra Innings Rules

Once the Mets could not push across a run in the bottom half of the ninth, the Mets saw new extra-innings rules for the first time. The Braves took full advantage of the runner on second as Dansby Swanson lined a ball up the middle to give the Braves a 3-2 lead. After Ender Inciarte grounded out for the fourth run, Williams Contreras hit his first big league pitch into the right-center field gap to make it a 5-2 game.

Since manager Luis Rojas put in the defensive team when they had the lead, there was a lot less offense than the starting lineup. They managed only to score one run but left the tying run at first base.

Though Diaz smiled through the pain, it did not hide what happened. It was the exact way he blew saves during the 2019 season, where all it took was a home run to blow the game. Rojas voiced his confidence in Diaz saying the ball was coming out of Diaz’s hand well. Though it was a good pitch, the 2019 history is hard to ignore.

Michael Conforto and Amed Rosario recorded five of the eight Mets hits after they were no-hit for the first 4.1 innings. Max Fried was as solid as the Braves could have asked for, giving up only two runs in five innings pitches.

The silver lining for the Mets that Pete Alonso finally recorded a hit after looking completely lost through his first handful of at-bats.

The Mets send Rick Porcello to the mound for Sunday night baseball in hopes of taking two out of three. It will be a 7:08 p.m. start and face off against another lefty, Sean Newcomb.

 

New York Mets: Cespedes Powers the Mets to a 1-0 Victory

New York Mets, Yeonis Cespedes

The New York Mets’ first win of the season could not have been written better and was a day for a couple of crucial Mets to get chips off their shoulders. Yoenis Cespedes returns to the lineup in fashion as his majestic solo home run was all the Mets needed to defeat the Atlanta Braves. Also, Jacob deGrom and the bullpen combined on a shutout of the defending NL East champions.

Cespedes looked rusty at the plate during his first two at-bats. His pop up and a groundball to third base barely reached the infield dirt. It was the first time for Cespedes to test his legs, but he ran at 80 percent as advised by the Mets medical staff. During Cespedes’s third at-bat, he took a belt-high fastball and deposited deep into the empty left-field stands. He did not have to worry about his legs during his light jog around the bases.

Pitching Dominance

deGrom shut down any question on the effect of his back injury and long layoff. He only allowed two baserunners and struck out eight on only 74 pitches. deGrom consistently threw 99-100 mph with his fastball and has thrown 28 straight scoreless innings.

Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson worked through trouble to keep the Braves scoreless and get the game to Edwin Diaz in the ninth. Of course, watching Diaz is going to frighten Mets fans, but he also calms down fans for now. He worked around a walk and struck out two to get his first save of the 2020 season.

Diaz looked electric with his fastball in the high 90s, a slider that looked like it did during his time in Seattle, and he even threw a changeup as well. Diaz struck out Matt Adams on a perfect slider to end the game, which was a huge confidence boost. He struggled mightily with his signature pitch last season, but those struggles seem no more.

Mike Soroka also pitched great for the Braves. He went six innings and allowed four hits without walking a batter. Mets pitching held the Braves to three hits and struck them out 15 times, which handed Soroka a no-decision.

The top of the Mets order, Brandon Nimmo and Jeff McNeil provided three of the six Mets hits. McNeil easily could have added two more if it was not for the Braves defense.

The Mets and Braves play game two of the season at 4:10 p.m. on Saturday. A couple of lefties tow the rubber as Steven Matz gets the start against the 17-game winner, Max Fried.

New York Mets: Edwin Diaz ready to prove himself

New York Mets, Edwin Diaz

New York Mets reliever Edwin Diaz is a man on a mission.

The Mets acquired Diaz from the Seattle Mariners in December 2018. The Mets also corralled infielder Robinson Cano while sending prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn, relievers Anthony Swarzak and Gerson Bautista and outfielder Jay Bruce to Seattle.

Diaz is coming off a discouraging debut season with the Mets. Recording a 5.59 ERA and 1.38 WHIP while surrendering 15 home runs and blowing seven save opportunities, the right-handed reliever struggled to find his footing.

Despite the rough season, Diaz feels that he’s still a “closer,” as expressed in a Friday afternoon interview (quotes by means of Mike Puma of the New York Post).

“My mentality has always been that I’m a closer, despite even what happened last year,” Diaz said through an interpreter following a Friday afternoon workout at Citi Field. “This offseason I went in and trained hard, I worked on different things that gave me the confidence that made me feel that I could be the closer of this team.”

Diaz is a year removed from making the American League All-Star Game roster and winning the Mariano Rivera AL Reliever of the Year Award with the Mariners. That season, 2018, he recorded a 1.96 ERA and 0.79 WHIP while totaling 124 strikeouts and converting 57-of-61 save opportunities.

Diaz is out to prove that he’s worthy of being the Mets closer this season.

“Now, going into this second spring training, I’m going to try to prove during these next two to three weeks that I can be the closer of this team.”

New York’s bullpen struggled to finish games last season. They were 28th in MLB in BABIP (.312), 26th in ERA (4.99), 22nd in home runs per nine innings (1.47) and 19th in FIP (4.71) and walks per nine innings (3.93) while being 28th in innings pitched (519.2).

The Mets finished last season 86-76, good for third place in the National League East.

New York Mets: The Randomness of a 60-game Season

New York Mets, Jacob deGrom

The New York Mets have started reporting to Citi Field in hopes of Spring Training resuming on July 1. If the players sign off on a 60-game season, with a 10-team playoff, the season will be full of chaos.

The Mets played two different seasons during 2019. Their worst 60-game stretch has them as the fifth-worst team in the NL, and their best stretch has them as the fifth-best team in the NL. The Mets’ best stretch came with their backs against the wall, and every team will have their back to the wall in 2020.

With such a short season, any team can emerge from the pack to surprise the league, and a predicted contender could easily go through a bad stretch they cannot survive.

Win Early and Often

The Mets would benefit from playing with a sense of urgency from game one. Ideally, the Mets would love to have control of their destiny for the entire season. The reason they never made it to the top of the Wild Card picture is that they depended on other teams to lose so they could move up in the standings.

A key emphasis for the Mets is to pitch Jacob deGrom every time he can get at least four days of rest. If all five starters make their start, he will only make 12 of them. Allowing deGrom to pitch after three games of rest and an off day, allows the Mets to squeeze out an extra 2-3 starts. They would push everyone in the rotation back a day, but the Mets need their best pitcher on the mound as often as possible.

The Mets bullpen is set up well for a short season. There are plenty of live arms and pitchers who can pitch multiple innings. In this modified season, relievers will be called upon early, as they would during the postseason. Their closing situation still remains a question because the Mets do not have games to waste if Edwin Diaz cannot figure himself out.

Each team has plenty of questions to answer and holes to fill during a short Spring Training. The Mets’ roster depth sets them up well to find answers to their questions quickly.