Series in review: It's all in the pitching

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
7:49
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Twenty two games into the season and the Mets are now nestled into a wild-card spot, two games over .500, thanks to winning three of four games from the St. Louis Cardinals.

Here’s a look at some of the statistical highlights from the surprising success.

Start means finish
Mets starting pitching is in the midst of a fantastic run, in which it has allowed three runs or fewer in 10 straight games.

In that span, their combined ERA is 1.84 (13 earned runs in 63 2/3 innings pitched). All but one of the starts lasted at least six innings.

Mets pitchers continue to put up great numbers with Anthony Recker catching. Their ERA is 2.78 and opponents’ batting average is .204 with Recker catching.

One thing Mets pitchers are struggling with: their own hitting. They are now a combined 0 for 37 this season. Though even if you factor that out, the team is still hitting .228.

Mejia continues to dominate
Jenrry Mejia improved to 3-0 with a 1.99 ERA with a win in the series opener.

The key for Mejia has been keeping the ball down. He ranks fifth among starting pitchers in percentage of pitches in the lower-third of the strike zone or below (think “knee-high or lower”).

When Mejia puts a ball there, he has two ways to get you. He can induce a missed swing (opponents have missed on 40 percent of their swings against those pitches, which rates well above-average) or he can get a called strike (he gets strikes on 37 percent of those pitches that are taken, which doesn’t sound high, but ranks second-best in the majors to Bartolo Colon’s 42 percent).

Granderson starting to get hits
Curtis Granderson had hits in each of the last two games, both of which came on balls that our batted-ball system classified as “hard-hit.”

Granderson was 2 for 11 when hitting a hard-hit ball. The typical hitter gets hits at about a 70 percent rate on hard-hit balls.

My colleague in Stats & Info, Evan Abrams, pointed out a stat that will make Mets fans, particularly those drawing comparisons from Granderson to Jason Bay, uncomfortable.

Granderson is trying to avoid the list of worst batting averages by those 30 or older who qualified for the batting title -- one currently headed up by Dave Kingman, who hit .204 in 1982. Jeromy Burnitz ranked second-worst -- .215 in 2002.

No longer sitting on 714
Bobby Abreu became the 715th player in Mets history to get a base hit. He now has 566 doubles, the most among active players.

That was among a bunch of statistical firsts from Thursday's win.

Chris Young became the 387th different Met to hit a home run. And Daisuke Matsuzaka is the 132nd to earn a save since the save became an official stat in 1969.

View from the other side
The Mets became the first team to defeat Lance Lynn in the months of March and April. Lynn was 12-0 prior to May 1 prior to his loss on Thursday.

Granderson shows signs of a breakthrough

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
6:13
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NEW YORK -- Curtis Granderson says everything feels the same.

It didn't sound like it, though.

[+] EnlargeCurtis Granderson
Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsCurtis Granderson got a hit in his only plate appearance on Thursday.
After two hits in two days, it sure sounded like there was some relief in Granderson's voice after the New York Mets' 4-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday.

"Anytime you can get the ball to touch the [outfield] grass, and touch base safely, it's amazing what that does for a hitter," Granderson said.

Granderson snapped a career-high 22 at-bat hitless streak with a first-inning single Wednesday, and added a pinch-hit RBI single in the seventh inning Thursday. His batting average is .137, but that's better than the .116 he was carrying around two days ago.

He can still look like he's caught in between, checking his swing on pitches that turn out to be strikes. But Granderson is also starting to look less tentative when he does swing.

"Mentally and physically, everything still feels the same," he said. "Mechanically, I'm starting to get a little ways towards finding what's going on. I still don't understand it 100 percent."

Granderson was out of the starting lineup Thursday, but only so Bobby Abreu could get a start in right field.

Terry's not checking: There was some buzz from Mets fans on Twitter that Cardinals starting pitcher Lance Lynn was continually touching the same spot on his cap. Mets manager Terry Collins said he didn't notice, and said he probably wouldn't have had him checked, anyway.

"I'm not going to start an epidemic," Collins said, before adding that he has noticed that Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel often has a dark spot on his cap.

The patience of Bobby: Not surprisingly, Collins loved what he saw in Abreu's first start. Abreu saw 13 pitches in his first two at-bats, and the second resulted in a double to left.

"That's the Bobby Abreu everyone knows," Collins said. "Great approach at the plate. He's going to help us a lot."

Surprise! Dice-K closes out Cards

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
6:09
PM ET
Daisuke Matsuzaka AP Photo/Kathy WillensMatsuzaka's last save came when he was still plying his trade in Japan.
NEW YORK -- Terry Collins wasn't kidding.

Fans may have laughed at his suggestion that there's "no question" that Daisuke Matsuzaka can close games for the New York Mets. Some rival scouts and executives may have scoffed at the idea.

Collins was serious, and he showed it Thursday afternoon, handing the ball to Matsuzaka in the ninth and watching him record his first major-league save in the Mets' 4-1 win over the Cardinals. While Matsuzaka isn't the Mets closer -- not yet -- there's now little doubt that he could move into that role.

Collins didn't make public in the morning his plan to use Matsuzaka in the ninth inning Thursday afternoon. He didn't even tell Matsuzaka.

Even catcher Anthony Recker was surprised to see who came in when the bullpen gate opened in the ninth.

But Collins had it planned.

It's a different type of pressure from when I start. But I definitely enjoyed it today. It's definitely different [pitching out of the bullpen], but I think I'm starting to get used to it.

-- Daisuke Matsuzaka
"I wanted to put him in that situation," the Mets manager said. "I wanted him to get used to it. I wanted to see how he would handle it -- and he did well."

Collins isn't yet naming Matsuzaka his closer. Kyle Farnsworth still has that job, and since Farnsworth had pitched three of the previous four days, it was easy to explain staying away from him Thursday.

What's clear now is that if Farnsworth falters, Matsuzaka is next in line.

It's wild how fast all this has happened. Matsuzaka was a starting pitcher in Triple-A eight days ago. He made his second career U.S. relief appearance just five days ago.

He never thought he'd be able to be a relief pitcher, simply because of the time it takes him to warm up. Others never thought he could do it, simply because of a career history of walking too many batters.

But now here he is, the owner of an actual major-league save, with the game ball to prove it after a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

Matsuzaka said through an interpreter that while he keeps very few mementos from his career, he'd save this one. He also admitted that while he has always wanted to be a starter, he didn't exactly hate this new job.

"It's a different type of pressure from when I start," he said. "But I definitely enjoyed it today. It's definitely different [pitching out of the bullpen], but I think I'm starting to get used to it."

Matsuzaka had one save when he pitched in Japan. But it came when he was just 20 years old, and he remembered it as a three-inning save. It wasn't like this.

He's still not going to be your typical closer. He throws six different pitches, and Recker said they used five of them in just the 15-pitch inning Thursday.

"His biggest advantage is [the hitters] have no idea what's coming," Recker said. "We'll back-door it. We'll back-foot it."

Whatever they've done, so far it has worked. In 5 1/3 innings for the Mets over the past week, Matsuzaka has allowed just one run on two hits, with eight strikeouts.

He's the perfect surprise story for what has already been something of a surprise Mets start to the season. And as a 33-year-old veteran, he almost fit in age-wise into a game where the winning pitcher was 40-year-old Bartolo Colon and one of the Mets hits came from 40-year-old Bobby Abreu.

"I think we're back in 1999 right now," Recker joked.

No, but they are 12-10, and they just took three of four from the defending National League champions. Who knows where it goes from here, but who knew that Daisuke Matsuzaka could be closing games?

Terry Collins did.

Rapid Reaction: Mets 4, Cardinals 1

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
4:36
PM ET
NEW YORK -- In four games this week against the St. Louis Cardinals, the New York Mets scored nine runs.

And won three of the games.

For the Mets to come anywhere close to their announced (but perhaps unrealistic) goal of 90 wins, they'll need to score more runs. But the pitching is on an impressive run.

Bartolo Colon had another strong start in Thursday's 4-1 Mets win, his fourth in five starts for the Mets (the other one was a nine-run clunker in Anaheim). And for the first time in his major league career, Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched the ninth inning to earn a save.

Colon followed good outings by Jenrry Mejia, Dillon Gee and Jonathon Niese, giving the Mets' starters a 1.37 ERA in the Cardinals series.

Colon allowed just one run in seven innings; Kolten Wong singled and Tony Cruz doubled with two out in the fifth. He outpitched Lance Lynn, who came into the game tied for the National League lead in wins.

The Mets faced strong pitching throughout the series, and for that matter throughout the homestand so far. They've been able to counter it with strong pitching of their own.

Daisuke in the ninth: Manager Terry Collins said Thursday morning that Kyle Farnsworth said he was fine to pitch. But when the bullpen gate opened in the ninth, Matsuzaka appeared. Farnsworth had pitched three of the past four days, and his velocity was down noticeably in his Wednesday night save.

Matsuzaka pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning Thursday. He has been a relief pitcher for less than a week, but Collins has already considered him as a possible closer.

Matsuzaka's only previous professional save was in 2000 with the Seibu Lions.

Finally two up: The Mets are two games over .500 for the first time this season, after three times getting to one game over and then losing the next game. The Mets were never as many as two games over .500 after April 16 last season.

At 12-10, New York has a better record than the defending National League champion Cardinals (12-11). When Thursday afternoon's game ended, the Mets had the same record as the Washington Nationals; the Nationals play the San Diego Padres on Thursday night.

But it's a youthful-looking 40: With Colon on the mound and Bobby Abreu starting in right field, the Mets had a pair of 40-year-olds in the lineup for the first time since Sept. 30, 2007 (a day they'd rather forget), when Moises Alou and Tom Glavine started against the Marlins.

Colon had slightly better results Thursday than Glavine did that day.

Granderson sits, then hits: Curtis Granderson was out of the Mets' lineup Thursday to make room for Abreu to get a start. Granderson pinch hit in the seventh inning and was given credit for an RBI single (off left-hander Kevin Siegrist) when his sharply hit ground ball got through Mark Ellis at second base.

A day for firsts: Thursday's firsts included: Abreu's first start as a Met, and first major league start for anyone since July 25, 2012; Abreu's first big league hit since Sept. 28, 2012, and first double since July 6, 2012; Chris Young's first home run as a Met; and Granderson's first pinch-hit as a Met.

Wind update: Compared to a normal day, it was windy and cool Thursday at Citi Field. Compared to Wednesday night, it was a glorious afternoon for baseball. Thursday's wind reading at game time was 19 mph, gusting to 34 mph.

What's next: The Mets open a three-game series with the Miami Marlins on Friday night at Citi Field. Zack Wheeler (1-2, 4.63) starts for the Mets, with Henderson Alvarez (1-2, 2.66) going for the Marlins.

Tommy John on surgeries: 'Unreal'

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
11:57
AM ET
video

Former major league pitcher Tommy John says it's "unreal" that so many pitchers need elbow surgery 40 years after he was the first to undergo the procedure that now bears his name.

"It's unreal," John told the Watertown Daily Times. "And it's crazy that they would pick 2014 to be an epidemic year, it seems like guys are going down right and left."

Brandon Beachy (Braves), Patrick Corbin (Diamondbacks), Luke Hochevar (Royals), Josh Johnson (Padres), Kris Medlen (Braves), Ivan Nova (Yankees), Jarrod Parker (Athletics) and Bobby Parnell (Mets) are among the pitchers this season to have been sidelined with elbow-ligament injuries that require Tommy John surgery.

"Throwing pitches in the big leagues will not hurt your arm," John told the Daily Times. "It's what you did down the road when you were younger. ... In essence, the injury itself is a buildup of overuse. And not overuse as an adult, but overuse as a kid.

"What I would like to see these guys do, these surgeons and all, is ask all the guys who have had the surgery -- 'How much did you pitch as a kid and how often, and did you pitch year-round?' And nowadays, probably 70 to 80 percent of the pitchers today have been pitching 12 months a year since they were seven, eight or nine years old. And your arm is not made for that."


(Read full post)


Abreu gets first start since '12; Grandy sits

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
11:41
AM ET
NEW YORK -- Bobby Abreu turned 40 in March. When he plays right field Thursday afternoon for the Mets, it will be the first time he has started a major league game in 21 months.

The plan is that he won't go two years before his next start. But it likely won't be two days, either.

The Mets brought Abreu to the big leagues with the idea of using him mostly as an experienced bat off the bench. Manager Terry Collins strongly believes he'll help a team that has been offensively challenged this season.

"I still think that as we go down the road, he's going to be a huge bat for us," Collins said Thursday morning.

To be that, Collins knows, he'll also need to have Abreu start a few games. In many cases, that will mean a day off for Curtis Granderson, because Collins believes Abreu is most comfortable playing right field.

Collins said he would like to start Abreu once a week. Abreu says that should work.

"Once or twice a week is fine," he said.

Granderson hasn't emerged yet from his early struggles. His first-inning hit Wednesday night broke a career-high streak of 22 consecutive hitless at-bats -- it was his only hit in the past 10 days.

Collins believes the only way for Granderson to get going is to keep playing regularly. The manager is willing to wait for the production to start coming.

"I have a lot more patience than a lot of people," Collins said.

One reason Collins chose to insert Abreu in Thursday's lineup is because Bartolo Colon is starting, and Colon normally allows more ground balls than fly balls.

Collins on pine tar: Collins managed in the dry air of Albuquerque, so he's familiar with conditions that would cause a pitcher to want to use pine tar to get a better grip on the ball. He doesn't want baseball to change the rules, but like most in the game, he simply believes it should be used with discretion (and not the way Michael Pineda did for the Yankees).

Collins said he doesn't believe most pitchers are attempting to cheat.

"The era of the spitball is gone," he said.

Thursday's Mets-Cards lineups

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
11:18
AM ET
NEW YORK -- Here are the lineups for Thursday afternoon's 1:10 p.m. game at Citi Field, as the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals close out a four-game series:

Cardinals
Matt Carpenter, 3b
Jon Jay, cf
Matt Holliday, lf
Matt Adams, 1b
Allen Craig, rf
Daniel Descalso, ss
Kolten Wong, 2b
Tony Cruz, c
Lance Lynn, rhp

Mets
Eric Young Jr., cf
Daniel Murphy, 2b
David Wright, 3b
Lucas Duda, 1b
Chris Young, lf
Bobby Abreu, rf
Anthony Recker, c
Ruben Tejada, ss
Bartolo Colon, lhp

Just a day off for Curtis Granderson, with manager Terry Collins explaining that he wanted to get Abreu in the lineup, and that Abreu is most comfortable in right field. The resulting shuffling means that Duda makes just his second start of the season in the cleanup spot, where he batted 41 times last year.

Poll of the day: Chipper, Omar, Beltran

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
11:12
AM ET
SportsNation

Which of these three birthday boys should go into the Hall of Fame?

  •  
    25%
  •  
    27%
  •  
    17%
  •  
    29%
  •  
    2%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,211)

Happy birthday to Chipper Jones, Omar Vizquel and the still-active Carlos Beltran.

Today's question: How many of those three should make the Hall of Fame?

OK, Chipper is an obvious Hall of Famer, Vizquel and Beltran less so.

Some quick numbers for Vizquel: Most games ever at shortstop; 2,877 career hits; 1,445 runs; .272 average; 11 Gold Gloves; three-time All-Star; career WAR of 45.3.

Beltran: 363 home runs; 1,340 RBIs; 1,356 runs; three Gold Gloves; eight-time All-Star; 308 stolen bases; .333, 16 HR in 51 postseason games; 68.3 career WAR.

Morning Briefing: Series win rests on Colon

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
7:00
AM ET
NEW YORK

FIRST PITCH: The Mets have a chance to win a series from the Cardinals for the first time since June 2012 if they can take Thursday afternoon's 1:10 p.m. series finale. After facing Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha the last two nights, the Mets will now see Lance Lynn (4-0, 3.42), tied for the National League lead in wins.

Bartolo Colon (1-3, 5.40), who has pitched well in three of his four starts, is the Mets' scheduled starter.

Thursday's news reports:

• The Mets battled Wacha, the Cardinals and the terrible conditions, and came away with a 3-2 win that was only sealed with the help of a great Kirk Nieuwenhuis-to-Ruben Tejada-to-Travis d'Arnaud relay to get Matt Carpenter at the plate in the ninth inning. Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Times, Newsday, Star Ledger, Record, Wall Street Journal and MLB.com.

Curtis Granderson's hitless streak ended at a career-high 22 at-bats when he singled in the first inning Wednesday, but Granderson ended the night 1-for-3 with a .125 batting average. His career numbers suggest he'll get better, and Mets hitting coach Dave Hudgens believes he will. Read more in the Post. The Mets need Granderson to hit if they're going to do anything offensively, columnist John Harper points out in the Daily News.

Daisuke Matsuzaka got another big out in relief Wednesday night, and manager Terry Collins said he could see using Matsuzaka as the closer. Read more in Newsday, the Wall Street Journal, the Star Ledger and MLB.com.

• This was a character win for the Mets, columnist George Willis says in the Post. But the Mets will need to score more runs, and Jared Diamond in the Wall Street Journal says the numbers suggest that they won't.

• With Ivan Nova of the Yankees apparently headed for Tommy John surgery, Dan Martin of the Post checked in with Matt Harvey, who explained his decision to have the operation.

BIRTHDAYS: Carlos Beltran turns 36 . . . Pat Zachry is 61.

TWEET OF THE DAY: YOU'RE UP: What would you think of Daisuke Matsuzaka as the Mets closer?

Mets weather windy Citi, Cards in wild finish

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
12:31
AM ET
NEW YORK -- For much of a cold and windy night at Citi Field, Travis d'Arnaud's main concern was remaining upright.

Seriously.

"In between innings, I fell over a couple of times because of the wind," the New York Mets catcher said Wednesday night.

It was that kind of night and that kind of game, one that wasn't secure as a 3-2 Mets win over the St. Louis Cardinals until Curtis Granderson was forced to race far into the right-field corner to run down what started off as a routine Matt Holliday fly ball to right.

"That was one of the best plays of the game," Mets center-fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis said. "A tough play, a really tough play."

[+] EnlargeMatt Carpenter
Elsa/Getty ImagesThe Mets preserved their lead in the ninth with a lead-saving relay, capped by Mets C Travis d'Arnaud.
It wasn't, however, the play of the game. That came one batter earlier, and Nieuwenhuis was part of it.

With the tying runs at first and second, and Mets closer Kyle Farnsworth in trouble, pinch hitter Daniel Descalso drove a ball through the wind to left-center field. Nieuwenhuis ran it down and got the ball to relay man Ruben Tejada, but no one thought the Mets had a chance to throw Matt Carpenter out at the plate and preserve their lead.

"I figured it was a tie game," Farnsworth said.

But Tejada made a great throw ("I still can't believe I witnessed it," d'Arnaud said), d'Arnaud made a great tag, and the out call by plate umpire Marty Foster was confirmed by replay after a Cardinals challenge.

"My heart's still racing," d'Arnaud said.

The Mets had an impressive win, one that allowed manager Terry Collins to praise his 11-10 team.

"We're hanging in there because we play hard," Collins said. "The conditions [Wednesday] were really, really tough."

The conditions (including winds reported at 31 mph, gusting to 41 mph, at game time) may well have had an effect on Michael Wacha, who became the first Cardinal starter ever to strike out nine batters in the first three innings. Wacha struggled through a two-run, 30-pitch fourth inning and was charged with the loss.

Mets starter Jonathon Niese dealt with the conditions better than Wacha did, giving up just one run in 6 2/3 innings and needing only 95 pitches to get there. Given what the wind was doing even to pitches, that wasn't a simple task.

"The ball was moving," d'Arnaud said. "The wind was inconsistent, so [Niese] had to continually adjust where he was throwing it to. He was mentally able to push through it."

So were the Mets, with the help of the Nieuwenhuis-to-Tejada-to-d'Arnaud relay that saved the game.

"I turned my head, and I saw [Carpenter] in my peripheral vision," d'Arnaud said. "I saw that he was kind of past me, so I started tagging behind me. I knew I tagged him. I just didn't know if he tagged the plate first.

"I knew there had to be two perfect throws just to give that play a chance."

Is Farnsworth fine? Had Carpenter been safe at the plate, Farnsworth would have had a blown save and the questions about his ability to hold the Mets closer role would have no doubt been louder. Farnsworth didn't throw a pitch over 90 mph until the final at-bat, when two fastballs to Holliday were clocked at 93 and 94 mph.

Collins was concerned enough that he said he would check with Farnsworth and see if he needs a day or two off, but Farnsworth insists he's fine.

"Yeah, everything felt real good," he said.

Niese survives cold, Cardinals, line drives

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
12:22
AM ET
Jonathon Niese has apparently got this cold-weather thing figured out.

With a game-time temperature of 51 degrees and ridiculous winds that clearly impacted both starting pitchers, Niese fought his way through 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball to earn his first win of the season.
This was the sixth time in the past two seasons in which Niese was asked to pitch in such cold temperatures at first pitch. In three starts last season, he allowed 10 runs in 17 innings, including days of 34 and 28 degrees in back-to-back starts.

This season, he has allowed four runs in 18 1/3 innings pitched in his three cold-weather starts (50 degrees against the Reds, 45 against the Braves, 51 on Wednesday night).

“I don’t know what it is about Jon Niese and cold-weather games, but he pitched great tonight given the conditions,” Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Niese improved to 4-1 with a 1.89 ERA against the Cardinals for his career. That's the lowest ERA for any active starter who has made at least five starts against them, just ahead of Francisco Liriano's 1.95.

He has allowed three earned runs in 19 2/3 innings in his past three starts against them.

What’s working for Niese
The key to Niese’s start this season has been the performance of his cutter, and that was true on Wednesday night as well. He threw 13 of 21 for strikes to Cardinals hitters, which netted him seven outs while yielding only two baserunners.

Opponents are now 2-for-20 in at-bats ending with a Niese cutter this season.

Niese also lived on the fortunate side in this game. Cardinals hitters hit eight line drives, but the Mets turned five of them into outs, with three caught by center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis.

Opponents are 12-for-22 when hitting a line drive against Niese this season. That sort of “success” is unlikely to last, given that they hit .735 and .728 on line drives against him the past two seasons.

But then again, the cold weather shouldn’t last either.

Minors 4.23.14: Ynoa suffers first loss

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
10:44
PM ET
PORTLAND at BINGHAMTON (ppd.): The game was postponed due to unplayable conditions. It will be made up May 3 at 12:05 p.m.

PALM BEACH 3, ST. LUCIE 1: Gabriel Ynoa pitched well (six innings, three runs, no walks, four strikeouts) but lost for the first time this season because the Mets were held to five hits. Gilbert Gomez, who doubled, had the only extra-base hit for the Mets.

SAVANNAH 3, DELMARVA 2: Victor Cruzado tripled and scored on a Dominic Smith sacrifice fly to break a seventh inning tie. Akeel Morris pitched three scoreless innings to get the win out of the bullpen, with Robert Coles recording his third save. Matt Oberste had two of the four Sand Gnat hits, both doubles.

Rapid Reaction: Mets 3, Cardinals 2

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
10:27
PM ET
NEW YORK -- The wind was blowing. The temperature was falling.

The conditions were perfect Wednesday night at Citi Field. Perfect for a perfectly weird game of baseball, which is exactly what the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals provided.

The Mets deserve credit for winning it, 3-2, holding on in the ninth, only because they threw Matt Carpenter out at the plate on a Daniel Descalso double. Jonathon Niese deserves credit for making it through 6 2/3 innings on a night when pitching couldn't have been that much easier than hitting.

Kyle Farnsworth? He gets credit for his second save, but it wasn't pretty.

Niese allowed just one run on six hits for his first win of the season, and even the run was somewhat tainted. The Mets failed to turn what would have been an inning-ending double play in the first inning, and Yadier Molina followed with a run-scoring double.

The Mets struck out 10 times in the first four innings against Michael Wacha but also scored a pair of runs to take the lead in the fourth. Lucas Duda homered off Seth Maness in the sixth.

From there, the Mets had to survive an eighth-inning mess, with Scott Rice coming out of the bullpen to get Matt Adams to fly out and strand the tying runs at second and third.

Wacha's wacky night: Wacha became the first Cardinals starter ever to record his first nine outs on strikeouts -- and the first pitcher from any team to do it against the Mets. But Wacha also walked five, which is why he was gone from the game after just four innings (and 93 pitches).

Wacha became just the third pitcher in major league history to strike out 10 in a game in which he recorded no more than 12 outs. Strangely, the first time it happened was last September (Felix Hernandez against the Angels), and the other two times were both this season (Danny Salazar of the Indians against the White Sox was the other).

Granderson hits: The Mets' only hit in the first three innings came from Curtis Granderson. Of course it did.

Granderson's single through the right side of the infield ended his string of hitless at-bats at a career-high 22.

Duda homers: The Mets had gone a full week without a home run when Duda connected in the sixth. They'd gone 18 days without a home run at Citi Field.

The last Mets home homer before Duda? That would be the Ike Davis' walk-off grand slam against the Reds on April 5.

A (not-so) beautiful night for a ballgame: Wacha was standing on the mound in the second inning Wednesday when his cap suddenly flew off his head and carried to second base, where Mark Ellis made a play on it. Yes, Citi Field looked a little bit like old Candlestick Park, with hot dog wrappers blown all over the outfield. Game time temperature was announced at 51 degrees, with winds at 31 mph, gusting to 41 mph. Not surprisingly, the crowd was one of the smallest of the season so far.

What's next: The Mets and Cardinals complete the four-game series with a 1:10 p.m. game on Thursday. Bartolo Colon (1-3, 5.40) starts for the Mets. Lance Lynn (4-0, 3.42), tied for the National League lead in wins, starts for the Cardinals.

Could Dice-K close? TC: 'No question'

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
5:37
PM ET
Daisuke MatsuzakaMike Stobe/Getty ImagesDaisuke Matsuzaka prefers to start. But he could end up as the Mets' closer.
NEW YORK -- Daisuke Matsuzaka would prefer to be pitching in the first inning. There might be just as good a chance, though, that the New York Mets try him in the ninth.

Asked Wednesday if he thought Matsuzaka could close games, manager Terry Collins didn't hesitate.

"No question," Collins said.

Collins knows he needs to have potential closers in mind as the Mets go through this season without Bobby Parnell, who had Tommy John surgery. Jose Valverde held the job for less than three weeks. Now it's in the hands of Kyle Farnsworth, who didn't even make the team out of spring training.

Matsuzaka has made two relief appearances since rejoining the Mets last week, just the second and third times he pitched out of the bullpen in the big leagues. He pitched four innings, allowing one run on two hits, with two walks and six strikeouts.

The natural concern with putting Matsuzaka at the end of games would be whether he would throw enough strikes, always an issue in his career.

"The adjustment he made at the end of last season, those walks went away," Collins said.

The other concern for the Mets is that Matsuzaka has value as a long reliever and backup option for the rotation. He may never end up closing, but it is something that has crossed Collins' mind.

"He wants to start," Collins said. "We know he wants to start. But he said. 'If you need me in the pen, I'll be ready.'"

Matsuzaka even told Collins he was available to pitch Monday, for what would have been a third consecutive day (and after three innings Sunday). Collins told him no on that but did have Matsuzaka ready to go if the Mets had tied the game in the ninth inning Tuesday night.

No big change for Curtis: The Mets have looked at plenty of video on Curtis Granderson in an attempt to figure out why a guy who has been a good hitter suddenly can't do anything at the plate. But Collins said he cautioned his coaches against overreacting.

No way to see Jose: The Miami Marlins are off on Thursday, so the Mets will miss Jose Fernandez when the Fish visit Citi Field this weekend. Fernandez struck out 14 Braves on Tuesday night, and leads the majors with 47 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings this season.

Probables for the weekend: Zack Wheeler vs. Henderson Alvarez Friday, Jenrry Mejia vs. Kevin Slowey Saturday and Dillon Gee vs. Tom Koehler Sunday.

Wednesday's Mets-Cards lineups

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
5:08
PM ET
NEW YORK -- Here are the lineups for Monday night's 7:10 p.m. ET game at Citi Field, as the New York Mets and continue a four-game series:

Cardinals
Matt Carpenter, 3b
Mark Ellis, 2b
Matt Holliday, lf
Allen Craig, 1b
Yadier Molina, c
Jhonny Peralta, ss
Peter Bourjos, cf
Shane Robinson, rf
Michael Wacha, rhp

Mets
Kirk Nieuwenhuis, cf
Curtis Granderson, rf
David Wright, 3b
Daniel Murphy, 2b
Chris Young, lf
Lucas Duda, 1b
Travis d'Arnaud, c
Ruben Tejada, ss
Jonathon Niese, lhp

Kirk Nieuwenhuis makes his first start in a week, as Eric Young Jr. gets the day off against tough Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha. As promised, manager Terry Collins leaves Curtis Granderson in the lineup, despite a hitless streak that has now reached a career-high 22 at-bats.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Daniel Murphy
BA HR RBI R
.291 0 7 11
OTHER LEADERS
HRL. Duda 4
RBID. Wright 12
RE. Young Jr. 18
OPSL. Duda .798
WJ. Mejia 3
ERAJ. Mejia 1.99
SOB. Colon 26

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