Saturday, April 19, 2014
Granderson, Valverde come up small, again
By Danny Knobler
NEW YORK -- It could have been one of the best wins of the season, a game that would have been replayed for years on SNY.
Instead, there's this: By Sunday morning, the New York Mets could have a new cleanup hitter and a new closer.
Jose Valverde gave up a three-run homer to Justin Upton, which proved to be the difference in the game.
That's not good.
Saturday night's 7-5 loss to the Atlanta Braves wasn't even that bad a game for the Mets, who knocked Braves closer Craig Kimbrel out and nearly beat him in the ninth inning. But it was another terrible game for Curtis Granderson, the $60 million cleanup man, and for Jose Valverde, the fill-in closer.
Granderson went 0-for-5, left six runners on base, is now hitting .140 with just four RBIs on the season, and has Mets fans thinking this is Jason Bay revisited. Valverde gave up a long three-run homer that ended up being decisive, the fourth homer he has allowed in his past three appearances.
The Mets are only one game under .500, at 8-9. It's only the third week in April. But manager Terry Collins can't ignore what he sees.
Collins met with Granderson before Saturday's game, and basically admitted after the game that he plans to move Granderson out of the cleanup spot, if only to change things up. Collins also basically admitted that he's going to need a new closer, because he can't send Valverde out there in a big situation again.
"I'm going to address that [Sunday]," Collins said.
Collins also said he's been troubled by some of the pitches Valverde has made this week, describing them as being in the "nitro zone." That was certainly true of the ninth-inning fastball Valverde threw to Justin Upton, the one Upton launched over the center-field fence to give the Braves a 7-3 lead.
The fact that the Mets rallied against Kimbrel, even forcing Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez into the unusual move of removing his closer from the game with a lead, only made Valverde's most recent failure feel worse.
While Collins doesn't have great options to replace Valverde, the option of keeping him in the closer role looks even less appealing. So it will likely be Kyle Farnsworth who gets the next chance, or perhaps Carlos Torres or Gonzalez Germen.
Anybody but Valverde.
And what about Granderson? The Mets have much more invested in him than they do in Valverde, and his failures have been just as dramatic.
"He's not squaring balls up," Collins said.
Granderson told Collins on Saturday that he doesn't believe he's pressing because of the big contract, or because of the ice-cold start, or because he's hitting in a key spot in the order that he has rarely occupied before. Granderson basically repeated that when speaking to reporters after the game.
"No, not at all," Granderson said, in answer to both the pressing question and the cleanup question. "Stay focused, stay ready, stay aggressive and eventually things will turn."
Collins has little choice but to believe things will turn for Granderson. But he also has little choice in terms of what he can do to try to help things turn.
Maybe a move out of the cleanup spot won't work? But maybe it will?