The Mets just finished their first 3-game series of the 2017 season, taking two games from the Atlanta Braves, including a win on Opening Day at Citi Field. And while it was at times infuriating, it was also comforting in a lot of ways. There’s a lot of good stuff on display in the earliest parts of this season and I really mean that, I really do. I only gave up on this team once in three games, so that’s a win in my book.
Anyone who tells you that they saw a lot wrong with this team in the first three games is 1) a moron, 2) the guy who hangs out at my bodega and 3) I didn’t know we lived near each other. Seriously, it’s way too early to say this is garbage and that is garbage. It’s at this point in the season where I find my trust and faith in Terry Collins to be at it’s highest. It’s a “See Something, Say Something” mentality. IF you see a guy falling into traps early, say something and fix it. If you see a guy struggling to see the zone and find his stride, say something and help him find it again.
Let’s start with some of the things I’ve seen in these first three games that have me pumped!
It took 16 innings for the Mets Starting Rotation to give up a run. 16 innings. This Tuesday, I bought tickets to Matt Harvey’s debut, but didn’t end up going. My girlfriend Joanna, who writes for the blog, said “I don’t like going to Harvey starts. It’s like he’s my kid in a school play and I’m not sure he knows the all the words.” I understand that feeling 1000% percent. You want Harvey to pitch the game of his life every time he steps out there, you want him to be the Ace you know he is, but there’s that voice in the back of your mind saying “he’s gonna blow it.”
The Harvey that showed up Thursday against the Braves might not have been the lights out Harvey he is at his peak, but you guys, he’s close. First off, Matt Harvey looks like he’s in the best shape of his life. Dude looks thin, cut and ready to steal your girlfriend on Saturday night at Beauty & Essex. This Harvey doesn’t mess around, and I’m all about it.
This Harvey was also dealing from the mound, surrendering only 3 hits, while striking out 4 in 6.2 innings, the furthest a Mets pitcher has gone so far this season. Harvey’s two blemishes came on two home runs hit by a revitalized Matt Kemp in the 5th and 7th innings, with Harvey coming out after the 2nd blast. Harvey exited the game in the 7th inning after only throwing 77 pitches. That’s the biggest takeaway here. Harvey didn’t throw any meaningless, extra pitches. Dude was accurate and to the point. I am all about that.
As for the other two studs, deGrom and Syndergaard, it was business as usual. Syndergaard got roughed up for 5 hits, but a roughing up for Syndergaard mean nothing. Noah was still throwing GAS and picking up Ks, and deGrom struck out Bartolo Colon, so that’s pretty good outing right there. Needless to say, I am so excited about this lineup and every night I pray to my Casey Stengel bobblehead that they all stay healthy.
The other thing to love here is the resurgence of Jay Bruce. Jay Bruce is leading the Mets in offensive output, and that should be the most exciting thing to take away from this series. Bruce had the entire offseason to hear all about how much New York hated him worse than Jason Bay, and he decided to do nothing about it. Well, he did nothing in a good way. Jay Bruce has elected the “Speak Soft and Carry a Bi Stick” mentality for the 2017 season. Bruce was quoted on Opening Day saying, “It’s been well-documented that my first month here was not ideal, my last month was very good,” Bruce said following the shutout victory. It’s one of those deals where the fans are allowed to feel how they want to feel, and I just believe that if I go out there every day and play you’re going to see Jay Bruce the baseball player, and I think most people are going to like it.” That’s the Jay Bruce we’ve seen so far. That’s the Jay Bruce I hope we continue to see.
I do hope the José Reyes we’ve seen so far doesn’t hang around much longer. In José’s first 13 at-bats in 2017, he has struck out four times, 3 times looking. Lucas Duda has also struck out 4 times in 2017, but all of those have been swinging. Call me an idiot, but I would much rather a guy strike out swinging than looking. You can’t fault Duda for at least trying to spoil a pitch, but you can fault Reyes for watching strike three go by. Reyes did draw a walk from the full count, which is the only time he has managed to not strikeout after getting behind two strikes. That’s a problem for a leadoff guy, this is the guy who should be getting on base in front of your heavy hitters. This is the guy who sets the table for the rest of the team. Part of what made this Mets team successful in 2015 was having Granderson and his shrewd eye up there at the plate leading off. David Wright, Daniel Murphy, and Yoenis Cespedes would then come up with a man on, amplifying their danger. Reyes has yet to do that, and that’s something that needs to change and soon.
The bullpen has also been a bit of a surprise and a bit of a problem. All of the questions as to whether or not Addison Reed could fill the void while Familia is serving his suspension seem to have been answered and Fernanda Salas has seemed to be the guy to get the ball to Reed while he pitches the 9th. Salas was always going to be the guy to get the ball to Reed, but he’s really done a great job so far. Yes, he gave up 3 hits last night, but he also did something Mets relievers seem somewhat incapable of doing; cleaning up their own mess. You gotta tip your hat to him for that.
I also don’t love Hansel Robles being the first guy out of the pen. We saw that in the first two games, and it has come with mixed results. Terry Collins loves using his lefties for matchups, so that leaves Blevins, Smoker, and Edgin to the sidelines until that changes. So we’re left with Montero, Gsellman, and Robles. Gsellman is your 5th starter until Matz returns for his elbow issue, which now leaves us with Montero and Robles.
I don’t trust Montero yet. I just don’t think he’s at the level he should be for a guy going into his 6th season of professional baseball. Montero had his best years in 2012 and 2013 in the minors, but in the majors, he’s had little success. He’s not a guy I trust to hold a lead, or even clean up a mess. I’m open to loving him, but he’s hurt me before. Which brings me to Robles, he’s always been an interesting guy to watch, but I’m not willing to go on this quick pitch/Cueto stall gameplan he’s using now. He’s built a career on the quick pitch, but with the stall he’s added to the top of his wind up, the quick pitch resets a hitters timing.
Think of it like a knuckleball. A knuckleball disrupts a hitters timing and perception of a pitch. It creates bad timing. The pause that Johnny Cueto has successfully used, and the similar one that Robles has implemented does that as well. It is meant to disrupt a hitter’s timing. If you utilize that and then from a quick pitch, you’re adding more bad timing. Bad Timing + More Bad timing = Good timing. That’s what happened when Adonis Garcia doubled in the 7th inning on Wednesday to tie the game. I’m not in love with the quick pitch/Cueto pause from Robles this year, but it’s also early in the year, so I’m open to anything.
This weekend the Miami Marlins will be facing the Mets in the first weekend series at Citi Field this year. The Marlins have a solid offensive lineup made up of young guys like Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon. They also have Giancarlo Stanton, and if you don’t know that name by now, you need to stop living under that rock no matter how cheap the rent is. This Marlins lineup can and will bury you if you give them an inch, so the goal will be staying ahead of them and not letting them get to you early and often.
The Marlins pitching staff is a bit of a ragtag group this year. The loss of José Fernandez will be felt on the mound for the Marlins for the foreseeable future and it’ll take some major signings or draft picks to get them someone close to his caliber, if that even exists. Ron Darling said last night, “The Marlins had lightning in a bottle every fifth day, and you can’t replace that.” That’s the perfect way to put it.
The Mets will see Wei-Yin Chen, Adam Conley and Edinson Volquez this weekend. Chen has faced the Mets once before going 7 innings, giving up 1 run on 3 hits at Citi Field. Can he make history repeat itself? Let’s hope not. Conley has faced the Mets four times and hold an ERA of 1.11 against them, which doesn’t instill faith in his collapse. Conley averages 8.9 K/9 against the Mets and could pose a challenge on Saturday. Edinson Volquez will return to Citi Field for the first time sine he started Game 5 of the 2015 World Series. I want blood on Sunday. SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY.
The most important thing happening this weekend is the return of Zack Wheeler to the New York Mets rotation. After missing two full seasons recovering from Tommy John Surgery, Wheeler’s first start since 2014 will be Friday against the Marlins. It’s a Free Shirt Friday, so you know the crowd will be lively and present. A healthy Zack Wheeler is the last piece to this young rotation and I hope he brings the fire and the heat in his first game back.