New York Mets: Jose Valverde
FIRST PITCH: The Mets finally get a change of scenery. After a five-game series in Philly that included consecutive 14-, 14- and 11-inning games, the Mets open a three-game set against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Tuesday at 8:05 p.m. ET.
Zack Wheeler, coming off a dominating performance against the Philadelphia Phillies in which he allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings and struck out nine, starts the opener for the Mets, who look to reach .500. Wheeler (2-5, 4.31 ERA) opposes right-hander Jake Arrieta (1-1, 3.20).
“To go through what we went through, we’re tired,” Terry Collins said. “I’m not going to make any bones about it. This team is tired. We’re going to try to get some guys some days off this week.”
Asked if the firing of Dave Hudgens and release of Jose Valverde may have spurred the 6-1 week against the Pittsburgh Pirates and Phillies, Collins added: “I don’t know. I can’t answer that. We did something that a lot of places do it, a lot of businesses do it. They made a change they thought was necessary. I don’t know what the players thought of it. We haven’t necessarily gone crazy, but I think it got people’s attention, that’s for sure.”
Tuesday’s news reports:
• Matt den Dekker robbed Philadelphia of two runs -- reaching over the wall to take away a homer from Ryan Howard and also throwing out Reid Brignac at the plate -- as the Mets beat the Phillies, 11-2, Monday at Citizens Bank Park. Wilmer Flores finished with a career-high six RBIs, capped by a ninth-inning grand slam. Dana Eveland recorded a pair of big outs in his first major league game in two years. The Mets (28-29) took four of five from the Phillies to move within a game of .500.
• David Wright and Daniel Murphy are scheduled to get days off during the remainder of this road trip, with Wright’s potentially coming in the series opener at Wrigley Field.
• Den Dekker batted No. 1 Tuesday and will get the first chance in the leadoff role. Beyond that, Collins is not sure who he might try. It could even be Kirk Nieuwenhuis, presuming he gets promoted once the Mets shed a relief pitcher and return to a five-man bench. Read more in the Post.
• Juan Lagares officially landed on the disabled list Monday afternoon with a strained intercostal muscle on his right side. Read more in the Post, Daily News, Star-Ledger, Newsday and at MLB.com.
• Matt Harvey remains on track to throw off a mound Monday for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery on Oct. 22. Read more in Newsday.
• Eric Young Jr. is due to test his strained right hamstring running outdoors Tuesday for the first time since landing on the disabled list. He is not eligible to return until next Tuesday.
• Gonzalez Germen (infection) restarted a rehab assignment Monday with Class A St. Lucie.
• Mike Vorkunov in the Star-Ledger writes that the Mets set the single-day cheesesteak consumption record in the visitors’ clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park on April 30 by collectively downing 103 of the Philly delicacies. Of course, bullpen catchers Dave Racaniello and Eric Langill did plenty of the damage. And it came during a rainout in which the Mets spent hours at the ballpark awaiting their flight to Denver. Writes Vorkunov:
Though impressive, perhaps it should not have been surprising. When it comes to eating cheesesteaks, the Mets are the 1961 Yankees, and their bullpen catchers, Dave Racaniello and Eric Langill, are the Mantle and Maris.
Last season, from April 8-10, Langill set the three-game series record by eating 17 cheesesteaks. He broke Racaniello’s record of 14 -- which had stood for years.
The cheesesteak-eating competition is not without rules and calls for prior planning. To viably set a record, cheesesteaks can only be eaten after getting to the ballpark until batting practice, from the end of batting practice until the game begins, and for an hour window after the game has concluded. There are moratoriums during batting practice and the game, likely so that players and coaches can proceed with their day jobs.
• Former Mets executive Dave Howard is out as president of MSG Sports.
• Although the Mets have settled on Jenrry Mejia as the closer, former pitcher C.J. Nitkowski writes at Foxsports.com that the club has an opportunity to test sabermetric theories by not having a specific ninth-inning arm. Writes Nitkowski:
The Mets have an opportunity here to say to their best relievers, we have no closer, be ready from the sixth or seventh inning on because you could be called upon to get the biggest outs of the game. It is a great way to develop these young arms. Pitching in tight spots late in the game only makes you better as those games test your fortitude. If the Mets put their best young relievers in these games regardless of the inning, the result will be a group of battle-tested arms that will be ready to handle any and all situations.
Expensive closer are great when they are consistent, but so few are. Why force someone into the closer role when you don’t really have one? The Mets have some bright young arms both in their bullpen and in their rotation. This is an ideal time to train those relievers differently, both physically and mentally.
• Demoted Rafael Montero is due to start for Las Vegas on Tuesday. Noah Syndergaard (forearm) is penciled in to reenter the rotation Thursday for the Triple-A club.
• Andrew Brown and Danny Muno had two-run homers and Miguel Socolovich earned his first save with two scoreless innings as Las Vegas beat Reno, 6-4. Read the full minor-league recap here.
• Anthony DiComo at MLB.com previews Thursday’s opening round of the draft. The team web site, like ESPN’s Keith Law, continues to project the Mets selecting University of Hartford left-hander Sean Newcomb.
• Jared Diamond in the Journal calculates where historically the Mets and Phillies playing 57 innings in a series fits.
BIRTHDAYS: Racaniello, the bullpen catcher, turns 36. ... Las Vegas infielder Zach Lutz is 28. ... Ex-catcher Barry Lyons is 54. ... Savannah outfielder Victor Cruzado is 22.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
FIRST PITCH: Another eventful (and losing) New York Mets homestand comes to a close with Wednesday's 1:10 p.m. game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Mets split the first two games with the Pirates, after dropping two of three in series with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks. They also dropped a relief pitcher (Jose Valverde) and a hitting coach (Dave Hudgens), and watched Hudgens drop hints all over town that the Mets' problems went far beyond anything he could control.
After Wednesday's game, the Mets head to Philadelphia, to begin a stretch where they'll play 24 of the next 32 games on the road.
Wednesday's news reports:
• New hitting coach Lamar Johnson debuted Tuesday, and the Mets scored a few (but not many) runs in their 4-2 win over the Pirates. Read more on the game in the Post, Times, Newsday, Star Ledger, Record and at MLB.com.
• The Hudgens story continues to dominate the news, as everyone tries to figure out what it means in the bigger picture. Hudgens suggested in some of his Tuesday interviews that general manager Sandy Alderson isn't being allowed to make all the decisions, and Howard Megdal writes in Capital New York that the GM didn't make this one. Megdal says Jeff Wilpon ordered the firing in what his sources called an "angry meeting" with Alderson.
Columnist Joel Sherman in the Post says Hudgens has confirmed all the worst suspicions of Mets fans. Anthony Rieber in Newsday wonders if the firing was a sign from the Wilpons to Alderson, and an indication that Alderson's rebuilding plan is going up in smoke. Dave D'Alessandro in the Star Ledger is just happy to see the fans get fed up.
Read more on Hudgens in the Post, Newsday, Journal and Record.
• Is the booing at Citi Field really a reason for the Mets' problems at home? Hudgens suggested it is, and John Harper in the Daily News says that Terry Collins agrees. Read more on Mets fans in the Times.
• Or is it Keith Hernandez that's the problem? Bob Raissman in the Daily News looks back at some Keith history.
• The best news for the Mets (even better than a win) came from Noah Syndergaard's MRI, which the team said came back clean. Read more in the Post, Times and MLB.com,
• Dillon Gee isn't coming back soon. Read more in Newsday.
• Did you see 50 Cent's first pitch? The Post said he would fit right into the Mets bullpen. Read more in the Daily News.
• From the bloggers: Faith and Fear decides to combat the "negativity," at least for one night.
BIRTHDAYS: Ryota Igarashi turns 35. ... Mike DiFelice is 45.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU'RE UP: Are you happy to see this homestand end?
Pretty sure 50 Cent only got the gig because the Wilpons thought they were signing a new pitcher for that price. #mets— Joe Sheehan (@joe_sheehan) May 27, 2014
USA TODAY SportsThe Mets fired Dave Hudgens and released Jose Valverde late Monday, while Noah Syndergaard is headed to New York to get a forearm injury examined.
FIRST PITCH: No shortage of topics arose on Monday at Citi Field … and they mostly were negative.
On the day Ike Davis returned as a visitor, Dave Hudgens and Jose Valverde were shown the door. Also, Noah Syndergaard and Eric Young Jr. landed on disabled lists. And Jacob deGrom lifted his batting average to .800 but was deprived of his first major-league win.
What’s on tap Tuesday?
On the field, the Mets play Game 2 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, with Jonathon Niese (3-3, 2.70 ERA) scheduled to oppose right-hander Edinson Volquez (2-4, 4.37) at 7:10 p.m.
Off the field, MRIs for Syndergaard and E.Y. Jr., apparently, as well as the debut of Lamar Johnson as hitting coach.
Tuesday’s news reports:
• Hudgens and Valverde lost their jobs in the aftermath of Monday’s defeat. Hudgens, who had been in his fourth season as hitting coach, will be replaced by Johnson, the organization’s minor-league hitting coordinator for the past decade.
Vic Black is due to rejoin the Mets to replace Valverde. Black has flown from Las Vegas to New York to El Paso and now back to New York in the past three days.
Read more on the Hudgens and Valverde ousters in the Post, Daily News, Times, Journal, Record, Newsday and at MLB.com.
Read Hudgens’ pointed comments at MLB.com and in Newsday.
• Poised for his first win after tossing 6 2/3 scoreless innings and logging 122 pitches, deGrom instead was handed a no-decision when Scott Rice and Valverde failed to hold the lead. Valverde surrendered four runs over the final two innings in his last act as a Met. The Pirates ultimately beat the Mets, 5-3, on Memorial Day at Citi Field to drop the not-so-Amazin’s to 7-17 in May.
Read game recaps in the Post, Star-Ledger and at MLB.com.
• Syndergaard is due to be examined in New York on Tuesday because of a flexor pronator strain in his right forearm. Although the Mets downplayed the severity, the injury can be a precursor to Tommy John surgery. Syndergaard tweeted that he should be fine.
”We’re very concerned about it,” Terry Collins said. “I know a lot of guys that go to the doctor and it’s nothing. But I know some that go to the doctor and it’s an issue. So anytime you’re going in and the word ‘elbow’ shows up and you throw as hard as he does, it’s a concern.”
Read more in the Post, Daily News, Newsday, Times, Star-Ledger, Record and at MLB.com.
• Davis was greeted with polite applause in his first game back at Citi Field since the April 18 trade. He went 0-for-2 with a walk before being replaced by righty-hitting platoon mate Gaby Sanchez in the eighth.
“I didn’t get booed as much as I thought [I would],” Davis told Zach Braziller in the Post. “There was a lot of cheering. So it was really nice.”
Davis said pregame that one big difference between Pittsburgh and New York is he now does not get hitting tips from fans when he goes out for coffee in the morning.
Read more in the Star-Ledger.
• Travis d’Arnaud went 0-for-4 as the DH in his second rehab game with Binghamton as he returns from a concussion. D’Arnaud is due to catch Tuesday for the B-Mets. He could be activated from the disabled list as soon as Wednesday.
• E.Y. Jr. officially landed on the DL with a right hamstring injury on Monday morning. Matt den Dekker joined the club. Den Dekker struck out to end Monday’s game after entering on a double-switch in the top of the ninth. E.Y. Jr. is due to get an MRI on Tuesday to learn the severity of his injury. Read more in the Star-Ledger.
• Collins suggested the Mets are being cautious with Dillon Gee, who did not feel comfortable getting on a mound Sunday because of a lingering issue with a strained lat muscle.
• Columnist Kevin Kernan in the Post said the heat is on Sandy Alderson. Writes Kernan:
The general manager has to look in the mirror and question his performance for his part in the Mets’ terrible 7-17 May and overall 22-28 record. Owners don’t fire themselves, and that is especially true of the Wilpons -- so progress must be shown, and quickly.
Alderson’s promise of young arms must save games and jobs.
• Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Andrew Brown homered, but Las Vegas lost its sixth straight, 9-5 to Sacramento. Darin Gorski tossed a shutout in Binghamton’s 5-0 win against New Britain. Kevin McGowan extended his streak without allowing an earned run to 33 2/3 innings as Savannah won a rain-shortened game against Augusta, 2-0. Read the full minor-league recap here.
• Amed Rosario, who signed with the Mets for $1.75 million, is headed to Savannah … for a short stay.
BIRTHDAYS: Todd Hundley, who slugged 41 homers in 1996 with the Mets, turns 45.
TWEETS OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Can Lamar Johnson make a difference with the Mets’ hitters?
According to Dave Hudgens Mets fans have a -28 WAR this season. #Mets— Joe Pontillo (@JoePontillo) May 27, 2014
After Davis went 0-for-2 with a walk, he was replaced by righty-hitting Gaby Sanchez in the eighth when Terry Collins inserted southpaw Scott Rice to protect a two-run lead.
The bullpen surrendered five runs the rest of the way.
Sanchez homered against Rice and Jose Valverde allowed a game-tying RBI single to Jose Tabata later in the eighth.
The Pirates added three ninth-inning runs to take a 5-2 lead in the Memorial Day win at Citi Field, highlighted by Sanchez's tiebreaking single against Valverde. Two runs scored on the play, the latter courtesy of a throwing error by left fielder Curtis Granderson.
The loss dropped the Mets to 22-28. They are now 19-3 when leading after seven innings.
Valverde (1-1) was charged with four earned runs while recording only two outs. His ERA ballooned to 5.66.
Total package: Between pitching assignments, deGrom may be worthy of playing some shortstop, his original position at Stetson University.
With Terry Collins being refreshingly liberal with pitch counts of late, even for his young starters, deGrom was permitted to toss 122 pitches.
DeGrom departed after issuing his fifth walk -- to Neil Walker in the seventh, which advanced Travis Snider to second base. Jeurys Familia, who had appeared in both games on Sunday’s doubleheader against the Arizona Diamondbacks, then struck out reigning National League MVP Andrew McCutchen looking to strand both runners inherited from deGrom and preserve a 2-0 lead.
The Pirates had loaded the bases in the first inning, but deGrom coaxed Russell Martin into an inning-ending double play. An inning later, deGrom allowed a single and walk to open the frame but stranded both runners.
His pitch count was at 47 after two innings, but deGrom became efficient. His final line: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 5 BB, 4 K. He threw 122 pitches (67 strikes) and departed leading 2-0.
The 122 pitches were the most by a Mets pitcher within his first three major-league appearances since Bill Pulsipher tossed 131 and then 122 in June 1995.
Collins has been less conservative of late with pitch counts. Zack Wheeler has thrown 118 in two of his past three starts. Rafael Montero threw 113 on Sunday.
As for his bat, deGrom’s two-out single in the fifth against Brandon Cumpton ignited the Mets to open the scoring. Juan Lagares followed with a walk. Daniel Murphy then laced a two-run single to right field.
Well, it was a two-run single after a replay review.
Lagares had attempted to score all the way from first on Murphy’s single after right fielder Josh Harrison’s throw eluded third baseman Pedro Alvarez.
Lagares initially was ruled out by plate umpire Laz Diaz. However, the umpires initiated a review of whether catcher Russell Martin illegally blocked the plate -- the Rule 7.13 adopted this year to prevent horrific collisions and injuries like the one that occurred with San Francisco’s Buster Posey.
The video review ultimately determined Martin had blocked the plate, Lagares was ruled safe, and the Mets took a 2-0 lead.
It was not the first time this year a runner had been awarded home because a catcher blocked the plate. On April 19, Colorado’s Nolan Arenado was ruled safe because, after a review, Carlos Ruiz was determined to have blocked the plate.
Meanwhile, with singles in each of his two at-bats against Cumpton, deGrom is now 4-for-5 this season. He became the first pitcher in franchise history with a hit in each of his first three career games. Include position players and deGrom still is the first Met since Victor Diaz in 2004 to hit safely in each of his first three major-league games.
DeGrom has four of the six hits by Mets pitchers this season. He had snapped the pitchers’ 0-for-64 drought to begin the season with a hit in his May 15 debut.
Snapped: Lucas Duda snapped the longest active streak in the majors of innings pitched without allowing a homer with his leadoff blast in the bottom of the ninth against Mark Melancon. Melancon had tossed 86 homer-free innings.
Debutant: Matt den Dekker entered on a double-switch in the ninth for his first major-league action in 2014. He struck out to end the game.
What’s next: Jonathon Niese (3-3, 2.70 ERA) opposes right-hander Edinson Volquez (2-4, 4.37) at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday.
Terry Collins said d'Arnaud could be cleared by the team trainer and doctor later Friday to enter games. An MLB doctor then would need to review d'Arnaud's records and sign off.
Since d'Arnaud has not appeared in a game since getting struck on the top of the head 10 days ago, Collins said he expects the catcher will first go on a minor league rehab assignment, even if d'Arnaud needs only eight or 10 at-bats in the minors.
Gee delay: Dillon Gee looks like he will miss more than three turns in the rotation.
Gee would have needed to make a rehab start Sunday or Monday, coinciding with Rafael Montero's and Jacob deGrom's next starts, if he were going to displace one of those rookies the following turn through the rotation.
However, that's not possible, since Gee has yet to even get on a mound as he returns from a lat-muscle strain, according to Collins.
Gee continues to throw on flat ground and is progressing, the manager added.
Substitute closer: Jose Valverde will handle the closing duties Friday if the Mets have a late and narrow lead.
Jenrry Mejia got through throwing on consecutive days for the first time since 2010 fine, but Collins does not want to push things by trying for three straight days of work just yet. Soon, however, Mejia will work on three straight days. And that essentially will be the final step to Mejia becoming the full-time closer.
In his lone appearance against the Arizona Diamondbacks this season, Valverde surrendered ninth-inning homers to Aaron Hill and Paul Goldschmidt in a 5-2 win April 16.
Short coming: Collins suggested Wilmer Flores must be doing an adequate job defensively at shortstop because no one -- in a news conference or otherwise -- has asked the manager if Ruben Tejada would have completed a play that Flores was unable to execute. The manager added that Flores had made "enormous strides" in his footwork, balance and quickness since the last time he had seen Flores play shortstop.
Deep thoughts: Collins had a conversation with D-backs manager Kirk Gibson about Chris Young on Friday afternoon. Gibson told him that if C.Y. gets hot, he is capable of 25 to 30 homers. Collins hopes by starting Young on Friday against his former team, it will have the same positive result as when Curtis Granderson faced the Yankees and performed well.
Rookie Rafael Montero lasted only 4 1/3 innings in his second major league start and the Mets twice flopped with bases-loaded, one-out opportunities as the Los Angeles Dodgers won 9-4 on Tuesday night at Citi Field.
The Mets dropped to 20-24, matching their low-water mark at four games under .500. They are 9-13 at home.
With Philadelphia’s win against Miami, the Mets now are alone in last place in the National League East.
The game took 4 hours, 8 minutes -- a minute shy of matching the franchise record for a nine-inning game (4:09, done in 2000 at Dodger Stadium and 2005 against the Milwaukee Brewers).
Trailing by five runs, the Mets clawed back into the game in the bottom of the sixth against Dodgers starter Josh Beckett. Curtis Granderson had a solo homer and Lucas Duda had a two-run shot in the inning to pull the Mets within 6-4. It was Duda’s first homer since April 23 against St. Louis’ Seth Maness.
Jose Valverde and Josh Edgin combined to surrender three ninth-inning runs.
Out of control: Montero (0-2) was charged with five earned runs on seven hits and four walks in a 97-pitch effort that lasted only 4 1/3 innings. The rookie wriggled free of serious early trouble, stranding six baserunners through the first three innings, including the bases loaded in the second by striking out reigning co-NL Player of the Week Yasiel Puig.
Montero’s outing imploded in a four-run fifth as the Dodgers took a 5-1 lead. Montero walked Puig to open the inning and, with one out, fell behind in the count to Adrian Gonzalez, 2-0. Gonzalez followed by launching a tiebreaking two-run homer.
Montero could have been bailed out of further trouble, but Chris Young’s lack of range in center field -- at least relative to Juan Lagares’ -- cost the Mets. Young could not run down Matt Kemp’s shot to deep center, resulting in a double. Kemp then scored on Carl Crawford’s single, which chased Montero. Jeurys Familia allowed Crawford to score for the final run charged to Montero.
Montero has now allowed three home runs in two big league starts, matching the total he surrendered in eight starts in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League before his promotion. The second inning was particularly vexing Tuesday. Montero walked three Dodgers in that frame and surrendered a two-out RBI single to Beckett, the opposing pitcher. Opposing pitchers have now produced a hit in six straight games against the Mets.
Cameo: Justin Turner made a late appearance in his return to Citi Field. After Juan Uribe doubled in the ninth, he departed with an apparent recurrence of a hamstring injury. Turner pinch-ran and remained in the game for the bottom of the ninth.
What’s next: Jacob deGrom makes his second major-league start. DeGrom (0-1, 1.29 ERA) opposes left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu (3-2, 3.00) on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m.
Trailing by three runs in the bottom of the ninth, and with Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon unavailable, the Mets got a two-run homer from Daniel Murphy against Antonio Bastardo and a run-scoring groundout from Juan Lagares against Roberto Hernandez to send the game to extra innings.
The Mets ultimately beat the Phillies, 5-4, in 11 innings on Sunday afternoon at Citi Field to snap a five-game losing streak and avoid getting swept in a second straight series.
Ruben Tejada plated the winning run with a one-out single against Jeff Manship with the bases loaded. It was Tejada's third career walk-off RBI.
The Mets improved to 17-19.
The Mets’ bats had been moribund in the clutch entering the ninth inning, including being 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
Seemingly poised for a big first inning against Cole Hamels after David Wright’s RBI single staked the Mets to a 1-0 lead and placed runners on the corners with none out, the Amazin’s instead failed to plate another run. Chris Young struck out, Eric Campbell grounded back to the pitcher and Lagares struck out.
They loaded the bases in the fourth with one out, only to have Jonathon Niese strike out and Eric Young Jr. ground into a fielder’s choice.
In the sixth, with two runners in scoring position and two outs, Curtis Granderson pinch-hit for Niese and struck out.
In the seventh, after a one-out double by Murphy, Hamels struck out Wright looking and, with pitch No. 133, coaxed a flyout to center field from Chris Young.
In the eighth, pinch hitter Travis d’Arnaud struck out to strand two on base.
The Mets entered the bottom of the ninth trailing, 4-1, after Chase Utley produced a run-scoring triple against Jose Valverde in the top half.
The Mets are 4-for-33 with the bases loaded this season. Mets pitchers are 0-for-63, extending their MLB record to open a season.
The Phillies had broken a 1-all tie in the fourth by putting the ball in play. Campbell, in his first big-league start, fielded Domonic Brown’s grounder to first base and threw home trying to catch Ryan Howard. The throw was up the third-base line, Anthony Recker missed the tag and the Phillies had the lead. Wil Nieves followed with a run-scoring groundout.
Niese’s final line: 6 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K. He threw 97 pitches (63 strikes).
Snapped: Chris Young snapped an 0-for-18 drought with a ninth-inning double. He scored the tying run.
It’s a first: Campbell produced his first major-league hit with a leadoff single in the fourth against Hamels.
What’s next: The Subway Series, beginning with two games in the Bronx.
Bartolo Colon (2-5, 5.36 ERA) is due to face Hiroki Kuroda (2-3, 4.43) in Monday’s 7:05 p.m. opener at Yankee Stadium. CC Sabathia, the originally scheduled Thursday starter for the Yankees, instead has landed on the disabled list with right-knee inflammation.
Wainwright tossed seven scoreless innings thanks to Matt Holliday reaching over the wall to take away a homer and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Mets, 3-0, Tuesday night at Citi Field.
Wainwright did depart after only 79 pitches with a hyperextended right knee. He landed awkwardly after leaping while unsuccessfully attempting to field Chris Young's chopper on the right side. First baseman Matt Adams made the play to complete the seventh and Wainwright gingerly walked off the field.
Wainwright was coming off a two-hit shutout of the Washington Nationals in his previous outing.
The Mets (10-10) slipped back to .500 with the defeat.
Gee fizz: Dillon Gee pitched fine, but not well enough to match Wainwright.
Gee surrendered a two-run single to Jon Jay in the fourth that broke a scoreless tie, but it could have been worse. With the bases loaded and none out later that frame, Gee coaxed consecutive forceouts at the plate on grounders by Kolten Wong and Wainwright. Gee followed by striking out Matt Carpenter to hold the deficit at 2-0.
Mets pitchers nonetheless had their scoreless streak snapped at a season-high 20 innings.
Gee was coming off a near-flawless, 72-pitch effort against the Arizona Diamondbacks in which he tossed seven scoreless innings.
Gee’s final line against the Cards: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K. He threw 95 pitches (61 strikes).
Jose Valverde surrendered a ninth-inning run as the Cards opened a three-run lead.
Robbed: Holliday leaped at the left-field wall to take away a potential two-run homer from Chris Young in the fifth that would have evened the score at 2.
Bay watch: Curtis Granderson went 0-for-3 with a walk and strikeout. He is now hitless in 22 straight at-bats. That is a new career high, topping an 0-for-21 skid with the Detroit Tigers in 2006.
Snapped: David Wright lost a 12-game hitting streak with an 0-for-4 night that included striking out for the second out of the ninth with two runners on base
Debutant: Bobby Abreu made his debut as a pinch hitter leading off the bottom of the ninth. He flied out to left field. Terry Collins indicated Abreu is expected to start Thursday for the first time with the club.
What’s next: Jonathon Niese (0-2, 2.84 ERA) opposes right-hander Michael Wacha (2-1, 1.73) at 7:10 p.m. Wednesday.
"We've put a lot on Lucas' plate in the past week," Collins said about the reluctance to use Duda as a cleanup hitter now. "I don't want to pile on."
Start of something: Bobby Abreu's first start as a Met likely will come in Thursday's matinee series finale. Collins likes the matchup with Cardinals starter Lance Lynn. Although Abreu's only fielding experience while with Triple-A Las Vegas was in right field, Collins advised Abreu to be prepared to play left field at the big-league level.
Off and running: Juan Lagares, on the DL with a pulled right hamstring, has started running in Port St. Lucie, Fla. He is eligible to return from the DL on April 30.
Q PT: Why is Ruben Tejada on the bench a night after making two stellar diving plays up the middle? Collins said he scripted out before the series that Omar Quintanilla's lone start against St. Louis would come Tuesday. Quintanilla is 4-for-12 with two doubles lifetime against Adam Wainwright. Collins added that Wednesday starter Michael Wacha "eats up" lefty hitters, so the only alternative would have been Thursday. Collins said Tejada will start the final two games of the series.
Close call: Collins did not know Tuesday afternoon if he would have Kyle Farnsworth available to close. Who is the alternative? The manager was not sure. Carlos Torres would be a natural choice, but likely is unavailable because of a heavy recent workload. So it might fall to Daisuke Matsuzaka ... or even Jose Valverde.
FIRST PITCH: With the Atlanta Braves having left town, the task gets no easier for the Mets.
The defending National League champion St. Louis Cardinals now visit Citi Field for a four-game series beginning Monday.
Jenrry Mejia, confident a blister issue on his right middle finger is behind him, opposes left-hander Tyler Lyons in the 7:10 p.m. series opener. Lyons (2-0, 3.32 ERA at Triple-A Memphis) replaces Joe Kelly, who landed on the disabled list with a left-hamstring strain.
With the Mets facing a southpaw, Josh Satin figures to start at first base.
Monday’s news reports:
Abreu instead selected the Philadelphia Phillies, who ended up releasing him in March. Abreu at that point signed with the Mets and reported to Triple-A Las Vegas, where he hit .395 (15-for-38) with four doubles, one homer and nine RBIs. With the 51s, he appeared in four games as a designated hitter and four games in right field. He otherwise pinch hit.
The Mets did not announce a corresponding move. Since Abreu is a lefty hitter, Kirk Nieuwenhuis may be the most vulnerable. The alternative would appear to be demoting Andrew Brown, who repeatedly has staved off such reassignments because of issues such as Chris Young landing on the DL and Ike Davis getting traded.
Read more in the Daily News.
• With Jose Valverde having surrendered four homers in a three-appearance span, Terry Collins made a change at the back end of the bullpen. Kyle Farnsworth steps into the closer’s role. Farnsworth had been released by the Mets with a week to go in spring training. He was re-signed days later and assigned to Las Vegas, but never pitched there because Bobby Parnell’s injury created a vacancy in the big-league bullpen. Read more in the Post, Newsday, Star-Ledger, Record and at MLB.com.
• Curtis Granderson had a throwing error from right field Sunday that allowed a run to score. He also went 0-for-6, upping his hitless streak to 16 at-bats and dropping his average to .127. Still, Granderson ended up getting mobbed on the field by celebrating teammates after producing a walk-off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 14th. That allowed the Mets to salvage the series finale against the Braves with a 4-3 victory. The Mets (9-9) returned to .500.
Daisuke Matsuzaka, working on back-to-back days for the first time since 2004 in the Japan Series, tossed three no-hit relief innings. Valverde earned the win with a scoreless top of the 14th. Braves second baseman Dan Uggla helped by committing two errors, including failing to turn a would-be inning-ending double play on Lucas Duda in the sixth that allowed the tying run to score. The maligned bullpen tossed eight scoreless innings in relief of Zack Wheeler (6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 6 K).
Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Times, Star-Ledger, Record, Newsday and MLB.com.
Read more on Matsuzaka in Newsday.
Collins opted to place Daniel Murphy in the No. 4 hole over Duda. The manager cited Murphy’s .307 average in 60 career games in the cleanup spot entering Sunday. And Collins did not want to place too much pressure on Duda too soon, even though Davis has been traded and Duda should know he is unthreatened for the first-base job against right-handed pitching.
Columnist David Lennon in Newsday advocates placing Duda in the No. 4 hole now. Writes Lennon:
The Mets can't play the sensitive card with him any longer. They chose Duda over Ike Davis -- who, by the way, batted cleanup Sunday for the Pirates -- and that means trusting him to do the job.
And while we're on the subject of numbers, Duda's best offensive stats have come in the No. 4 spot. In 110 games there, Duda has a slash line of .276/.373/.453 with a home run every 25 plate appearances. So don't tell us Duda can't handle the pressure. As long as Granderson is slumping, Collins is going to have to scrape up offense from somewhere. And in this thin lineup, Duda has to become the hitter the Mets say he can be -- not look for shelter.
Read more in the Post.
• In the lone Easter Sunday minor-league game among Mets affiliates, Danny Muno, Allan Dykstra and Abreu homered and Jacob deGrom allowed three runs in five innings as Las Vegas beat El Paso, 11-4. Jeff Francoeur pitched a 1-2-3 eighth for the Chihuahuas. Reliever Zack Thornton, acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates with a player to be named for Davis, made his organization debut. Thornton allowed a solo homer but no other damage in two innings. Read the minor-league recap here.
BIRTHDAYS: Jesse Orosco turns 57. ... Jeff Keppinger is 34. ... Ronny Paulino is 33.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
FIRST PITCH: Sunday could be an eventful day for the New York Mets, in the wake of Saturday night's 7-5 loss to the Atlanta Braves. Manager Terry Collins suggested after the game that he will remove Jose Valverde from the closer role, and also that he could take Curtis Granderson out of the cleanup spot in the batting order.
The Mets will play the final game of the weekend series with the Braves on Sunday afternoon, with first pitch scheduled for 1:10 p.m. ET, and with Zack Wheeler (1-2, 4.67) scheduled to face Braves rookie David Hale (0-0, 2.89).
Sunday's news reports:
• The Mets had a chance in the ninth inning, and even knocked Braves closer Craig Kimbrel out of the game, but Andrelton Simmons made a great play on Travis d'Arnaud to end the game as a 7-5 Braves win. Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Times, Newsday, Star Ledger, Record and MLB.com.
• The Granderson situation is already getting difficult, and he is already drawing comparisons to Jason Bay, the last big free agent the Mets signed. Read more about Granderson in the Post, the Star Ledger and Newsday, where columnist David Lennon goes hard with the Bay comparison.
• Speaking of comparisons, don't you think everyone will be watching how Lucas Duda does with an eye on how Ike Davis fares in Pittsburgh? Davis doubled in his first at-bat for the Pirates. He reached base in each of his first three plate appearances in his Saturday night debut, and also shed some light on his feelings about the way things went for him with the Mets.
"It was pretty negative over there for me for a little while," Davis told reporters, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Columnist George Willis of the Post carried on the Ike-Luke comparison, with the headline writer noting a bit harshly that Duda didn't deliver in the eighth inning, when his fly ball was caught just in front of the right-field fence. Read more on Duda in the Daily News and MLB.com.
• Freddie Freeman had another big game against the Mets, bringing up Chipper Jones comparisons. Read more in the Daily News.
• Not everyone was upset with the Mets Saturday. They did a nice thing for a Queens kid whose family lost their home in a Jan. 1 fire. The Post has the story.
• The Mets have a decision coming up on Bobby Abreu. Tim Rohan of the Times went to see Abreu and his Las Vegas 51s teammates in Reno.
• More replay issues Saturday night, as John Harper points out in the Daily News. More on replay in Newsday.
• Not the best timing for a in-depth Q and A with Valverde, is it? But Steve Serby has one in the Post.
• Is this a good time for a Steve Phillips update? If you're interested in what the ex-GM is doing, read more in the Daily News.
From the bloggers ... Faith and Fear is pretty sure it sat through Saturday night's game plenty of times at Shea.
BIRTHDAYS: Sean Green, the reliever, turns 35. ... Masato Yoshii is 49. ... Jason Roach turns 38.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU'RE UP: With Bobby Parnell out for the year and Jose Valverde struggling, who would you use as Mets closer?
Instead, there's this: By Sunday morning, the New York Mets could have a new cleanup hitter and a new closer.
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?
At this point, it can't hurt to try.
Or whether he hits it off his own foot.
The biggest play in the Mets' 7-5 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Saturday did indeed deflect off Freeman's foot, or so it appeared on television replays. The ball ended up rolling down the third-base line, and when Mets starter Bartolo Colon threw it away down the right-field line, the Braves had two runs and a third-inning lead they would never give up.
Freeman had yet another hit against the Mets. He would finish the night with three of them, including an RBI double in the fifth inning that gave him 41 RBIs in his past 40 games against the Mets. Freeman is hitting .350 with 12 home runs in that span.
It's worth noting that Freeman hits well against everyone (his batting average this season is .413). Also worth noting is the fact that the Mets are now 2-6 at home this season, as opposed to 6-3 on the road.
To replay or not: The new instant-replay system hasn't helped the Mets the past two nights. On Friday, it was a questionable call at first base that was followed by a "fourth out" at third base, which kept manager Terry Collins from putting in a challenge.
Then came the key play in Saturday night's game, the third-inning Freeman infield single. Television replays showed the ball might have hit Freeman's front foot, which would have made it a foul ball. Collins asked the umpires about it but was never able to put in an official challenge because the replay rules don't allow managers to challenge fair/foul calls when the ball doesn't leave the infield or was hit off the batter's foot. There was some disagreement on how conclusive the replays were, anyway.
Not so Grand: The boos at Citi Field are getting louder for Curtis Granderson, the $60 million cleanup hitter whose Mets career is off to a dreadful start. Granderson was hitless in five at-bats Saturday, dropping his average to .140 through 16 games. Worse yet, he has just four RBIs after leaving six more runners on base in this game.
More boos: Is Jose Valverde really still the Mets' closer? Valverde didn't pitch in a save situation Saturday, but the long three-run homer he allowed to Justin Upton deprived Braves closer Craig Kimbrel of a chance at a save. Valverde has allowed four home runs in his past three appearances, and the latest one looked bigger after the Mets scored two runs and left the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.
Luke vs. Ike: The first-base competition that never was essentially ended when the Mets traded Ike Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday. But minutes after Davis doubled in his first at-bat Saturday night in Pittsburgh, Lucas Duda doubled to lead off the second inning for the Mets. Davis reached base safely in his first three plate appearances for the Pirates and scored two runs. Duda ended the night 1-for-4 after just missing a go-ahead home run on an eighth-inning fly ball to the wall in right field.
Young firsts: Chris Young, who missed two weeks with a quadriceps injury, finally got his first Mets hit, a leadoff double off Ervin Santana in the fourth inning. Meanwhile, Eric Young Jr. was caught stealing for the first time this season after being successful on his first 10 tries (including one that led to the Mets' first-inning run Saturday).
The Colon show: Colon was neither as good as he was 10 days ago against the Braves (seven shutout innings) nor as bad as he was last Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels (nine runs allowed), but Colon (three earned runs in seven innings) was as entertaining as ever, especially when he came to the plate. He struck out in both at-bats Saturday, seeing six pitches and swinging violently at five of them.
On one swing in the second inning, Colon swung so hard his helmet came off. Perhaps not the best thing for a pitcher who complained last week of back spasms, but entertaining nonetheless.
What's next: The Mets and Braves close out this three-game series Sunday at 1:10 p.m. Zack Wheeler (1-2, 4.67 ERA) starts for the Mets, while rookie right-hander David Hale (0-0, 2.89) pitches for the Braves.
FIRST PITCH: After going 6-3 on their three-city trip and moving above .500 for the first time this season, the Mets take a day off before opening a 10-game homestand.
The Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins are due to visit Citi Field.
“I almost wish we didn’t have [Thursday] off because we’re playing really well,” Anthony Recker said.
Jonathon Niese (0-1, 3.46 ERA) opposes ex-Met Aaron Harang (2-1, 0.96) in Friday’s 7:10 p.m. series opener against the Braves.
The Mets (8-7) actually are above .500 for the first time since last April 24, when they were 10-9.
“We’ve got to pitch,” Terry Collins said. “It starts there. We’ve got to pitch.”
Thursday’s news reports:
• The Mets completed a sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks with a 5-2 victory in Wednesday’s series finale. Dillon Gee required only 72 pitches for seven scoreless innings. Recker homered and doubled and may see increased playing time at Travis d’Arnaud’s expense. Jose Valverde allowed two homers in the ninth, but Collins insisted he remains the closer.
As for moving about .500, Gee said: “We’re concentrating on winning. I didn’t even know what our record was, to be honest, going into this game.”
Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Times, Newsday, Star-Ledger, Record and MLB.com.
• Chris Young joined the Mets on Wednesday in Phoenix after three rehab games with Las Vegas. Young (quadriceps) is due to be activated from the disabled list Friday. Curtis Granderson, officially day to day with bruises to his left wrist, rib cage and knee, is expected to reenter the starting lineup Friday, too. Granderson pinch hit in the eighth inning Wednesday.
• Andrew Brown could be demoted when Young is activated from the DL on Friday, but none of the first basemen should be in jeopardy, according to Sandy Alderson. Brown, though, had a strong game Wednesday, going 2-for-5 and making a stellar catch in right field. So maybe Kirk Nieuwenhuis will be returned to Vegas instead.
• Trainers told Juan Lagares, who underwent an MRI on Tuesday, that they do not believe his right hamstring pull is severe. Read more in the Star-Ledger.
• Collins believes Bartolo Colon, who has been dealing with back spasms, will be able to make Saturday’s start against the Braves. Jenrry Mejia, who left Tuesday’s start with a blister issue, is due to throw a bullpen session Friday at Citi Field, but expects to make his next start, too. Read more in the Post and Star-Ledger.
• The Mets plan to scout free-agent reliever Joel Hanrahan’s showcase for teams Thursday. Hanrahan underwent Tommy John surgery on May 16, 2013.
• The Brooklyn Cyclones will host “Seinfeld Night” on July 5 at MCU Park. Read more in the Post.
• Rob Whalen won in his first start of the season as Savannah beat Augusta, 4-1. Read the full minor-league recap here.
• Gary Cohen lightheartedly blamed broadcast partner Keith Hernandez for jinxing Gee’s perfect game. Hernandez had mentioned the no-no after Gee retired the game’s first 14 batters. It ended immediately afterward. Read more in the Post.
• From the bloggers … NY Mets Life examines how social media has changed the way fans interact with the game.
BIRTHDAYS: Rico Brogna turns 44. ... Brady Clark is 41. ... Infielder Doug Flynn was born on this date in 1951.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Will the Mets’ winning ways continue during their upcoming homestand against the Braves, Cardinals and Marlins?
Maybe the #Mets should play every game on the road from here on out— Unisa Fofana (@uni_fof84) April 17, 2014
Still, Terry Collins unequivocally said after Valverde's lackluster showing Wednesday that if there is a one-run lead Friday against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field, Valverde will be inserted for that save situation.
Valverde, working with a five-run lead in the ninth, surrendered inning-opening homers to Aaron Hill and Paul Goldschmidt, forcing Collins to have Carlos Torres and Daisuke Matsuzaka up in the bullpen.
Valverde allowed two runs and three hits in the inning, but finally recorded the third out as the Mets swept the D-backs with a 5-2 victory.
Wednesday's performance came on the heels of Valverde allowing a game-tying three-run homer to Raul Ibanez with two outs in the ninth inning Saturday in Anaheim.
Collins tried to excuse Wednesday's performance as it being difficult for a closer to build up his adrenaline when the Mets tacked on two runs in the top of the ninth to open a 5-0 lead.
"I wish you could tell you how many times I've seen that edge go off those guys when you add on like that," Collins said.
Valverde also shrugged off the two-homer appearance that lifted his ERA to 6.14.
"The only concern is if my team wins, I'm happy," Valverde said. "That's it."