Marcus Stroman

Amazin’ Mets Walk Off in Ninth Against Nats, Move into Playoff Position

Conforto with clutch hit wins it for the Amazin’s

By Scott Mandel

They’ve done it again. The New York Mets continued their magic carpet ride in this very strange baseball season by coming from behind tonight with four runs in the bottom of the ninth to defeat their division rival Washington Nationals, 7-6.

Michael Conforto, whom the Mets have been waiting for most of this season if not his career to break out into the star they’ve expected, continued his recent hot streak when he turned on left-handed pitcher, Sean Gilmartin’s inside fastball and rocketed a line drive over the head of National’s right fielder, Adam Eaton. With that, Juan Legares walked in from third base as the Mets were winners for the 14th time in their last 15 games and upped their record since the All-Star break to 20-6.

This was after Todd Frazier, another player who was ticketed to be traded or released just a few weeks ago, tied the game with a three-run homer in that same ninth inning, leading to pandemonium at Citi Field.

The Mets are now a half game out of the playoff hunt. Two weeks ago, they were 11 games out, and left for dead.

Marcus Stroman, recently acquired from Toronto, made his first home start as a Met. It was an appearance he will not forget. Citi Field was literally shaking last night with a deliriously sold-out crowd on their feet for most of that last inning. Stroman, who reportedly was highly disappointed when he was not traded to the Yankees, may be changing his tune.

“It was amazing. That crowd brought it,” Stroman said. “I’m extremely grateful to have their presence there, their energy. I don’t think they realize how much we feed off of that, and how much that gets us going and allows us to elevate our game when we need to.”

Normally a guy who gets a lot of ground balls and not an elite strikeout pitcher, Stroman punched out seven of his first nine Nats’ batters. The Long Island native ended up, in front of one of the loudest Citi Field crowds in recent history, soaking in the playoff-type atmosphere of his hometown city.

“I can’t put it into words. I want to pitch [in] every single game like that,” Stroman said. “It felt, honestly, like a playoff atmosphere, like that [World Baseball Classic] atmosphere that I had, from the second I walked out there. The entire crowd was going crazy. I love energy. I love that. Keep bringing that energy New York. We’re gonna feed off of that.”

With friends and family watching from the crowd, Stroman opened looking like the ace who made his first All-Star team this season, matching Washington’s ace, Stephen Strasburg zero for zero.

“I’m just happy to be here. And it’s a great vibe that we have on this team.”

Another guy happy Stroman is here is his new manager, Mickey Callaway.

“He battles. There’s no doubt about it. This kid is gonna battle and you’re gonna have to beat him. That’s what you want out of every guy on your team,” Callaway said. “There is no doubt that Marcus Stroman has that type of personality.”

“His slider was really working. And, he was really feeding off of this crowd,” Callaway added.

After last night’s walk-off hero, Conforto, ended things with his base hit, his Mets teammates stormed out of the dugout to surround him. Pete Alonzo, a very strong man, ripped Conforto’s jersey right off his back during the celebratory scrum at second base.

“Today was probably the most fun I’ve had up here in the big leagues,” Conforto said. “It was special. The stadium was packed. It felt like the playoffs.”

“When guys’ shirts come off after the game, I’d say it’s probably been a very good day,” said Callaway.

Indeed, Mickey. It was a very good day for the Mets.

Yankees May Look to Lengthen Pitching Staff with Shorter Pitchers, Marcus Stroman and Minor League Phenom, Garcia

by Scott Mandel

The New York Yankees, in need of starting pitchers, will try to trade for 5’7″ righthander, Marcus Stroman, a local boy from Long Island who has been languishing in Toronto with the Blue Jays, before the July 31 trading deadline. They have another short (okay, height-challenged, for you politically correct types) pitching phenomenon in the minors, named Delvi Garcia, a 20-year old 5’8″, 160 pounder, who is averaging 16 strikeouts per nine innings and appears to be a “can’t miss” prospect with four above average pitches in his arsenal, including a 95-97 mph fastball.

Wouldn’t it be fun to see little guys out there on the mound, mixed in with Yankee pitchers like 6’7″ C.C. Sabathia, 6’5″ James Paxon, 6’5″ JA Happ, and 6’5″ Aroldis Chapman, mowing down major league hitters during the stretch run of a pennant race?

Whitey Ford, only the greatest pitcher in Yankee history, was about 5’8″, and he’s in the Hall of Fame with 236 wins to his credit.

Clearly it’s not the size of one’s height, it’s the size of one’s heart (just made that up). And, it’s also the spin rate on the curve and slider, mixed in with control and command of a 95mph heater. But more on that, later.

Delvi Garcia is mowing down Double A hitters and could be in the Bronx sooner than expected

The Yankees have been bitten by the injury bug throughout their roster this season with the pitching staff getting hit particularly hard. Injuries to Luis Severino, their ace, along with Domingo German and Jordan Montgomery (recovering from Tommy John surgery last June) have left them with an over-dependence on pitchers like the 39-year old Sabathia and 36-year old Happ while getting inconsistent performances from James Paxson and German (before his injury).

Garcia, at Double A Trenton, is dominating Eastern League batters as he dominated in Single A ball. He is expected to be moved up, once again, to Triple A, the highest level of minor league baseball, within a few weeks. If his dominance continues there, he could be in line to get called up in September, when major league rosters expand.

“For a lack of a better word, he’s been dominant,” Trenton Thunder manager Pat Osborn said. “He has a really good four-pitch mix and all four right now are probably above the Major League average. He’s a heck of a competitor and has the composure of a guy that’s been pitching for a number of years. He’s the full package in terms of what you want in a young starting pitcher.”

Montgomery has had a recent setback in his rehabilitation, trying to come back from rotator cuff surgery in his elbow last June. This time, he is experiencing pain in his throwing shoulder. An MRI this week showed inflammation in the joint, always a scary proposition for pitchers. He won’t be back anytime soon.

German is a question mark, particularly since he didn’t pitch that well prior to his injury. He tends to lose command of his pitches, probably due to faulty mechanics with his delivery. He was able to maintain fastball velocity in the 95 mph range, but wasn’t throwing it for strikes, consistently. He was hit hard over his last several outings.

Severino, who won 19 games last season, seems to be progressing well in his rehab. If everything continues on a good path, it looks like he’ll be headed down to the minors in about two weeks to stretch out his arm so he can give the Yankees solid seven-inning outings when he returns to the big club. That should require at least four starts down on the farm, with the last two outings to occur with the Triple A Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees. Depending on how his arm, as well as his other physical ailments respond will determine when the Yankees bring him up to the big club in the Bronx. But, it will certainly be after the All-Star break.

The lesson to be learned is as old as the game, itself. Teams can never have too much pitching.