New York Mets

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.

Mets Win Despite Another Bullpen Implosion as Jeff McNeil Pegs Out Cardinals to End Game

by Scott Mandel

You have to give New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway, a ton of credit. He understands his public role as chief cheerleader for his players, no matter how much his bullpen may blow late game leads or his fielders continue their alarming level of defensive miscues.

The Mets won last night’s game over the Cardinals, 8-7. That’s the good news. The real news? They were leading in the seventh inning, 8-3, with Noah Syndergaard on the mound. He wasn’t particularly sharp all night but he had enough moxie and stuff to get outs when he had to.

As has been Callaway’s wont over the past month or so, with a faltering bullpen and a starting five that no longer needs to be babied with limited pitch counts, he sent Syndergaard out to pitch the seventh inning, with the starter having thrown 102 pitches through six.

Syndergaard (5-4) reached for his right hamstring after throwing one pitch. Callaway and an athletic trainer came out to check on the right-hander, who walked off the field with a bit of a limp.

“It was on that one pitch,” Callaway said, adding Syndergaard will be re-evaluated Sunday morning. “That deep in the game, if he feels anything, you get him out with a five-run lead.”

But, these are the Mets, who either grossly overrated its bullpen coming into this season or, those pitchers out there have all gone off the rails at the same time. The bullpen, coming into Saturday, held a 6.69 ERA in the last 30 days, 8.33 in the past two weeks. You can’t get much worse than that, especially when that unit has blown 16 saves this season, by far, the worst in the game.

When Syndergaard walked off the mound with a five-run lead, one sensed five runs wasn’t nearly enough of a lead to secure a win for the Mets against the scrappy, base-stealing Cardinals, who stole six bases against Mets pitching last night.

Enter Robert Gsellman, one of the Jekyll and Hydes of the Mets bullpen. Gsellman throws 95-97 but unfortunately doesn’t always know where the pitch is going. Often times, it ends up straight over the plate where major league hitters can tattoo it. Predictably, like clockwork, St. Louis scored three times with Gsellman being Gsellman, before the inning ended on a line-drive double play.

With a beleaguered bullpen having so much trouble closing games for the New York Mets lately, it was left to second baseman Jeff McNeil to take it upon himself to save this one, and save Edwin Diaz’ bacon at the same time.

Seth Lugo came on in the eighth inning, loading the bases but somehow, he struck out three in the inning, finally fanning Matt Carpenter with the bases loaded to end the inning.

Then, it was Diaz time. The Mets biggest acquisition of the off-season, Diaz appears to be fragile, an attribute for a closer that doesn’t lead to happy endings. The 24-year old gave up a two-out RBI single to Yadier Molina in the ninth, and Kolten Wong lofted a pop fly toward the right field line.

McNeil sprinted a long way in pursuit and converged with outfielder Michael Conforto, yet neither could make the catch. Conforto tumbled to the turf, but McNeil stayed on his feet and quickly grabbed the ball as it trickled away. He zipped a one-hop throw right to catcher Wilson Ramos that easily nailed Jack Flaherty, the Cardinals pitcher who was pinch-running for the slow-footed Molina.

“Mike goes in there sliding, I go in there leaping. I think once the ball hit the ground, I knew they were going to send him,” McNeil said. “Pick it up and I kind of got lucky; I was behind the ball, so I got some oomph on the throw.”

Flaherty looked back at the ball while running and stumbled coming around third.

“You see Flaherty chugging the bases and I thought he was going to score,” Cards’ starter Michael Wacha said. “The guy made a heck of a throw from right field — right on the money. So I mean, you’ve just got to tip your cap at some point and go get `em tomorrow. But it was a crazy ending, that’s for sure.”

A fired-up McNeil pumped his right arm and the Mets celebrated after a narrow escape. Diaz got his 15th save in 18 attempts.

“That was just a whirlwind of emotions,” rookie slugger Pete Alonso said.

Alonso smashed a mammoth three-run homer off the facing of the third deck in a five-run first inning against Michael Wacha (4-3). J.D. Davis homered and had four hits, finishing a triple short of the cycle. And this time, New York’s relievers finally held on — barely — after blowing late leads in the first two games of the series.

“Third time’s a charm and there was never a doubt,” Callaway said, chuckling. “A win’s a win and it was a great play by Jeff. Heads-up play to get it in and get it home. Great throw.”

“It was pretty nerve-wracking,” Davis said.

Added Callaway: “It’s not easy for us right now. But tonight is a step in the right direction, no matter how it happened. We held the lead and hopefully we can build off of that.”

Mickey can’t say this, as chief of cheerleading but, until the Mets get the collective fragile psyches of its bullpen into a healthier place, there won’t be enough runs in a game to build off of.

Callaway Not Tracking as Long-Term Mets Manager as Another Loss is Blamed on His Decision

If New York Mets manager, Mickey Callaway is fired before this season comes to an end, many of us might point to tonight’s loss at Citi Field to the San Francisco Giants, as the beginning of the end of his tenure at the helm.

Returning home from a 2-5 west coast road trip which made clear the biggest weakness of this team is found in its collapsing bullpen, Callaway spoke before tonight’s game about the importance of re-enforcing the starting pitching as the strength and core of this roster, and the one segment of this team that needs to be counted if the Mets are to have a successful, playoff-bound season.

Callaway said tonight it was going to fall on the shoulders of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz to lead this team to the promised land, much like past Mets pitching staffs had done, despite spotty lineups and lots of weaknesses throughout the rosters, such as in 1973 when names like Seaver, Koosman, Gentry, and Matlack led the Mets to the World Series despite a modicum of mediocrity throughout that lineup.

The problem is, Callaway isn’t managing as if the strength of this team is in its four starters, as he claimed earlier. He has played it cautious over the past few games with his ace, deGrom and tonight, with Syndergaard, who was removed by Callaway in the seventh inning with a 3-2 lead, having retired 10 of the past 12 hitters, just one out away from closing out that seventh.

Instead of focusing on the supposed core of this team, one of whom is Noah Syndergaard, Callaway managed as if he didn’t trust Syndergaard to retire that third out, the Giants’ righthanded hitting Evan Longoria, who was carrying around a .223 batting average.

Callaway brought in Seth Lugo, recently off the injured list, to pitch to the diminished Longoria as Syndergaard made no effort on the field to hide his anger at Callaway’s call to the bullpen.

With a man on first, Lugo proceeded to give up the lead, and with it, the Mets crumbled late in a game, once again, and suffered a crushing 9-3 loss after taking a lead into the the late innings.

A few hours later, Noah Syndergaard was on an excellent roll and the Mets manager was removing him from the game, the latest evidence that even nearly 1 ¹/₂ years into the job, Callaway still has trouble making decisions under stress. You know who agrees with that assessment?

Image result for Mickey Callaway decision loses game for Mets
Callaway also removed deGrom too early from a game on the West Coast trip, leading to bullpen collapse

Mickey Callaway.

Because after what turned into a 9-3, 10-inning loss, Callaway first gathered his players to express in Syndergaard’s word “remorse” about the decision while taking responsibility for the loss and then publicly conceding, “I’d like to have that [decision] back.”

That might be true about the Wilpons and Brodie Van Wagenen when it comes to their choice to stick with Callaway as manager. Three days after removing Jacob deGrom over the ace’s objections and going to a sketchy bullpen that would end up blowing the game, Callaway did the same Tuesday with Syndergaard with the same results. This is the Robinson-Cano-not-running-out-balls-twice of managing. Once, you are not crazy about it, but the second time reaches inexcusable.

Mets Blame Should be Re-Directed from Callaway to Disappointing “Star” Pick-Ups

Let this be a big shout-out to the biggest reasons New York Mets manager, Mickey Callaway, is now on the hot seat, only one quarter into his second season at the helm since leaving the security of Cleveland for this metropolitan hotbed of second-guessers.

So, you, Robinson Cano. And you, Todd Frazier. And you, Wilson Ramos. Don’t be hiding out there in left field, Brandon Nimmo. You, too. And, let’s not forget Jeurys Familia, either. It’s been a horror show for the ex-Mets closer turned set-up man for the new closer, 24-year old Edwin Cruz, who also hasn’t found the rhthym on his purportedly unhittable fast ball-slider combination.

We can easily extrapolate, based on numbers alone, the Mets record, currently at 22-25 (13-21 over past 34 games) would be significantly better if the above-named culprits were producing at levels commensurate with the backs of their baseball cards.

But, they’re not.

And, Callaway is taking all of the heat for the lack of performance from his key players.

So, even though the Mets pulled out another win tonight in the bottom of the ninth inning over their division rival, Washington Nationals, they are not a team running on all cylinders and haven’t been for over 30 games and counting.

So, even though Amed Rosario beat out an infield single to send the Mets to a dramatic 6-5 walk-off victory over the Nationals at Citi Field tonight, it occurred only after Familia came in to protect a one-run lead in the eighth inning after the Mets had rallied from deficits in the seventh and eighth innings against a very poor Nationals bullpen.

On a 3-1 pitch, with runners on second and third, Rosario hit a three-hop grounder to shortstop. Trea Turner, who didn’t charge the ball. Turner waited on it, double-clutched and his throw was too late to nip the speedy Rosario at first. The on-field celebration began.

“The moment I hit that ball, I immediately thought I had to get there,” Rosario said. “I don’t know if it was the situation of the game, but I got into a full gear at that point.”

Said Callaway: “Rosie just outran the ball. We went crazy.”

Watching this Mets team roller-coaster from the highs and lows of the sport would drive anybody crazy. But, this season will not end well for Callaway or the Mets unless guys like Cano (0-4 tonight and a smattering of boos from the home crowd), Familia, Nimmo, Frazier, and Ramos match the numbers on the backs of their bubble gum cards.

Mets actually on winning streak after dramatic walk-off
Rosario and his teammates celebrate bottom of ninth win at Citi Field