Todd Frazier

Mets Breathe Deeply Behind Wilson and Alonso Ninth Inning Heroics, Frazier Drives In Three

by Scott Mandel. SportsReporters.com

It’s too bad only 20,843 baseball fans showed up tonight at Citi Field to watch Game #144, against the Arizona Diamondbacks. With only 18 games remaining to this season, and the Mets four games out of an attainable playoff berth, you would expect a greater turnout.

But, the half-empty stadium witnessed a thriller of a game, which the Mets won, 3-2 because of Zack Wheeler’s solid seven-inning effort, the ninth inning heroics of the reliever, Justin Wilson and, Pete Alonso’s defense. Yes, that’s right, his defense.

It was the ninth inning. Two outs. The game-tying run stood on third. The go-ahead run stood on second. Wilmer Flores, the longtime Mets infielder who holds the record for most walk-off RBIs at Citi Field in team history stood at the plate, facing Wilson.

“We’ve all seen him do it plenty of times,” Wheeler said. “It was a little nerve-wracking.”

“That was going through my mind. I promise you,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “I’ve seen it. He’s done it more than anybody in the history of Citi Field, so it was going through my mind. There was no doubt about it.”

This time, with the game and the Mets season on the line, Flores went down swinging on the final pitch of Wilson’s four-out save, giving the Mets a 3-2 win Tuesday night in Queens.

Callaway was asked after the game about keeping Wilson in the game instead of going to his struggling closer, Edwin Diaz.

“I just had to stick with Wilson. We all know the struggles that Diaz has had and Wilson has been really good. I felt like at that point it was Wilson’s [game],” Callaway said. “He willed it. I’m not saying we’re gonna run from Diaz. He’s gonna get his chances, too … but we called down in the eighth and asked Wilson if he could get four outs for us.

“I thought Wilson was gonna get it done. Some way, somehow.”

With Seth Lugo unavailable after pitching two innings the previous night, Callaway counted on the lefty, Wilson, the only other reliever who has earned his trust. Wilson, who has a 1.54 ERA since the All-Star break, came on to record his first four-out appearance since his only previous save of the season on April 2.

“Late in the season, everything kind of goes. Gotta win games,” Wilson said. “Clearly we’re still in a little bit of a hole. Luckily we have enough games left to make a push. Everyone’s available in any situation.”

Wilson allowed a walk and stolen base to Josh Rojas in the eighth, but kept the Mets in front by retiring Adam Jones. The ninth inning started like so many for the Mets this season.

Nick Ahmed opened with a single up the middle, and Kevin Cron added a one-out hit. With runners at the corners, Ketel Marte nearly hit into a game-ending double play, but after Pete Alonso stepped on first base — following a diving backhand stab — the rookie threw to third base, failing to notice Tim Locastro caught between first and second base.

“Young guy, you don’t know what he’s gonna do, and he kind of spazzed out,” Frazier said. “Could’ve had a double play, but your mind’s going a mile a minute.”

‘“He didn’t have his best stuff. He didn’t have his best command, but he dug deep and got through it,” Callaway said of Wilson. “He’s gonna need a day or two off, but it’s worth it for the win tonight. He was unbelievable. He kind of willed that game, that save.”

The Mets pulled to within three games of the second wild card slot with the Cubs losing in San Diego. Perhaps, Mets fans, a group that is always hoping for a pennant race, will decide to turn out tonight, with Steven Matz going for his 10th win of the season against Arizona lefty, Robbie Ray.

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.

Syndergaard Throws Gem, Sending Mets to 6-1 win over Rockies

Setting the tone – Mets hierarchy is deciding to let “Big Four” starters lead the way this season by going “old school” with higher pitch counts and more innings per outing for the foreseeable future.

By Scott Mandel

Noah Syndergaard became a dominant pitcher again at Citi Field today, as he allowed just one hit to the potent Colorado Rockies lineup as the Mets won the rubber game of this weekend series, 6-1.

Todd Frazier, the well-traveled, veteran third baseman, led the Mets, driving in four runs with a home run and a double.

But, make no mistake about it. If this Mets team has any designs on competing for a championship, it’s going to come down to what has historically been the strength and the legacy of this franchise, namely, its starting pitching.

Some organizations have always been known by how many power-hitting bashers they produce, seemingly from year to year. Other organizations are better known for developing great pitching or, speedy, athletic, heady players.

Any success the Mets, in their 57-year history, have enjoyed, has always been predicated on their pitching staff, particularly its young, talented, fireballing starting pitchers.

Boppers? No, it’s never been the Mets “thing.” But, arms? Those have been a thing of beauty in the Amazin’s legacy.

This is the franchise of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan, Jon Matlack, Dwight Gooden, and for a brief, shining moment, Matt Harvey. Those were the guys this franchise historically depended on to win championships, or get them into contention to grab the brass ring.

The current Mets possess four talented starters in Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz, along with surprising fifth starter, Jason Vargas, who pitched a complete game shutout on Wednesday. The first four all throw the ball very hard, very consistently. Each of them can sprinkle in curve balls or changeups, but, by and large, these guys are bringing 95 mph plus heat to every start, forcing opposing hitters to cheat a little with their swings to catch up to the velo.

When these guys are “on,” they are dominant major league pitchers. It’s Callaway’s job to put them in dominant mode, and he believes it starts now with confidence-building. They have been told their success will dictate how this Mets season goes. That they, all in their primes right now, are the Core Four of the Mets.

But, up to this point, these pitchers have been mostly babied by this current Mets regime, for fear of developing the types of arm injuries that could derail a career, as what happened to Matt Harvey.

But, if you listen to Mets manager Mickey Callaway now, those days are over. Partially because of a bullpen that has been wildly inconsistent and unreliable, especially when holding leads in the late innings, and

New York Mets third baseman Todd Frazier hits
Hot-hitting Frazier drove in four runs vs. Rockies

partially, because somebody in the Mets hierarchy seems to have awakened recently and asked itself the question, “where and who is the strength of this team and how can we win a championship, today?”

The answer seems to have come to Callaway and his pitching coach, Dave Eiland, over the last four games, after the bullpen lost leads on the Mets recent road trip to the West coast.

Today, Syndergaard (4-4) struck out seven and walked two to pick up his first win in five starts, dating back to May 14. He was sharp from the get-go, working his 97-99 mph velocity to both sides of the plate. The Rockies didn’t look comfortable, as Syndergaard allowed just one hit in his tidy, 98-pitch outing, a Nolan Arenado single to right, just past the reach of Mets second baseman, Adeiny Hechavarria.

“He was on,” said Rockies outfielder, David Dahl. “His fastball is 98, 99 with movement. We were late on that and then we try to kind of cheat to it or get to it and he throws the changeup or the curveball,” Dahl said. “He had everything working.”

New York has homered in 16 straight home games, setting a club record.

All very nice when the Mets’ offense holds up its end of the bargain but make no mistake, this up and down Mets season will evolve into a memorable one if the Big Four succeeds at old school baseball and does what is now expected of them.

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