New York Mets: Kirk Nieuwenhuis
And then someone brought up Justin Turner.
Collins propped up in the chair and started talking with his hands.
“He can hit,” Collins said with some enthusiasm. “Always could hit. He’s not the flashiest of the flashy, but he can walk up in any situation and hit.”
Turner was non-tendered by the Mets in December and the Dodgers signed him to a minor-league deal just before spring training. One cellar-dweller’s trash is a contender’s treasure in Turner’s case.
A season after hitting .280 with two home runs in 214 plate appearances and likely due a decent raise through arbitration, Turner is hitting .314 with four home runs in 249 plate appearances and smacked a game-winning home run against the San Diego Padres on Thursday night.
Turner spent three seasons with the Mets and was always a favorite of Collins, who made it a point to seek out Turner before the game Friday.
“He was always ready for whatever we needed him for,” Collins said. “Play left field one day, third base, second base, whatever. It’s been a good situation with him over there [with the Dodgers].”
Injury updates: Appointed closer Jenrry Mejia is available tonight after missing Wednesday’s game in Oakland because of some back tightness. Mejia said it crept up on him Tuesday, but after a couple days off Collins declared him good to go.
This is the time of year when “wear and tear starts to show,” Collins said. Mejia’s workload has increased and become more stressful this season since he was named the closer in May. He has also pitched through or been sidelined by numerous ailments this year, including a hernia that will require offseason surgery.
Mejia has spent parts of four seasons in the majors and has battled injuries throughout his career, including in the minors. Collins said the training staff is monitoring Mejia closely because they want him to know what it feels like to pitch through September and not have to be shutdown at the end of the season.
• Dana Eveland’s left elbow is feeling better after a cortisone shot. He is available to pitch against the Dodgers. Eveland described his ailment as “tennis elbow” in Oakland and took a shot Wednesday and played catch Thursday and reported no pain.
• Outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis missed the last two games because of a stiff neck, but Collins said he is available off the bench Friday.
When asked how his neck was feeling in the clubhouse before the game, Nieuwenhuis replied, “It’s a little better.”
Undecided on Dice-K: The Mets still haven’t made a decision on what to do with Daisuke Matsuzaka, who threw five scoreless innings in his third rehab start Thursday.
He could be activated from the disabled list as soon as Tuesday. But Collins said there hasn’t been a decision on where Dice-K will pitch next. If the team decides to give him another rehab start it would push his return back to September when rosters expand and no corresponding roster move is needed.
FIRST PITCH: The Mets take a day off in California on Thursday, then get to work against the Los Angeles Dodgers this weekend.
The Amazin’s get a reprieve of sorts, too.
Clayton Kershaw, originally due to start Friday’s series opener against the Mets, instead faces the San Diego Padres on normal rest on Thursday. So the Mets draw Dan Haren in the series opener, followed now by Zack Greinke on Saturday and Kevin Correia on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Mets will activate a pair of starting pitchers for the series.
After Jonathon Niese starts the series opener, Jacob deGrom is due to be activated from the disabled list to pitch Saturday at Dodger Stadium. Bartolo Colon will be activated from bereavement leave for Sunday’s series finale. Colon then plans to return to the Dominican Republic for the funeral of his mother, who died Monday at age 63 after battling breast cancer.
The Mets ultimately will need to make as many as three roster moves -- for deGrom, Colon and, presumably, for Daisuke Matsuzaka early next homestand.
Matsuzaka, currently on the DL with right elbow inflammation, is due to make his third minor-league rehab start Thursday. He pitches for the Brooklyn Cyclones at 7 p.m. against the Staten Island Yankees at Coney Island.
The Mets have a number of potential maneuvers to clear as many as three spots. Gonzalez Germen, promoted when Colon went on bereavement leave, could return to Las Vegas. So could Rafael Montero, who otherwise would be working out of the bullpen with deGrom reentering the rotation. Perhaps the Mets also could find a DL candidate among some banged-up players.
Jenrry Mejia, who has a hernia and cranky calf, was unavailable Wednesday in Oakland because of tightness in his lower back on the right side, which is a recurring issue. Dana Eveland required a cortisone shot in his left elbow. And Kirk Nieuwenhuis was scratched from Wednesday’s lineup with neck discomfort.
Thursday’s news reports:
• Sandy Alderson joined Seth Everett on WOR, reminiscing about his days in Oakland and also commenting about the state of the Mets. (Listen here.)
On the team’s offensive funk (Wednesday notwithstanding), the GM said: “It’s been pretty much across the board, starting with the top of our lineup all the way through. When you only get three or four hits a night, there’s a collective issue. We’ve got some young players in the lineup who we’ve got to give some time, but I think it’s been a collective thing. I do believe that offensively we will get better. The question is how much better.”
Addressing David Wright's subpar production, Alderson added: “First of all, no player is ever going to be at the top of his game consistently throughout a season, or over ‘X’ number of seasons. And part of dealing with the adversity is how it’s handled. David handles it very well. We certainly recognize this is a collective thing.”
On the evaluation process for Matt den Dekker and Wilmer Flores, Alderson said: “The one thing that we have to do is be patient and not reach those judgments prematurely.”
And on how Terry Collins will be judged, Alderson said: “It’s more than wins and losses. It’s how the team approaches each game and how it conducts itself over the course of an entire season. All those things are important.”
• Eric Campbell and Lucas Duda homered in a five-run second inning against Jeff Samardzija and the Mets survived a pair of errors by Daniel Murphy en route to an 8-5 win against Oakland on Wednesday.
Zack Wheeler (9-8) allowed four runs (two earned). He was pulled after 5 2/3 innings and 103 pitches as the Mets kept him on a tight pitch limit after he threw 120 his previous outing. Wheeler improved to 6-0 with a 2.12 ERA in his past 10 starts and climbed above .500 for the first time this season.
With Mejia unavailable, Jeurys Familia produced a five-out save. Familia inherited the bases loaded in the eighth from Vic Black and walked in a run, but otherwise kept the A’s in check.
Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Newsday, Star-Ledger, Journal and at MLB.com.
• Read more on Colon’s temporary return for Sunday’s start in the Daily News and Newsday.
• Read more on Eveland’s “tennis elbow” and cortisone injection in the Star-Ledger.
• Matt Bowman allowed one run in seven innings but suffered a hard-luck loss as New Orleans beat Las Vegas, 4-0. Behind three RBIs from Dustin Lawley, Binghamton trimmed its magic number to clinch an Eastern League playoff berth to one with an 8-5 win at Erie. Read the full minor-league recap here.
BIRTHDAYS: Felix Millan turns 71 today. ... John Stearns is 63.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: How should the Mets clear spots for deGrom, Colon and Matsuzaka?
@AdamRubinESPN mejia has no upside playing hurt - get surgery— shizzambangle (@shizzambangle) August 20, 2014
"Beat up" is how manager Terry Collins classified Lagares on Wednesday morning before announcing he was giving him the day off, but that didn’t keep Lagares’ play from being a focal point of conversation before the game against the Oakland A's.
Part of the reason Lagares is getting a breather? He is 3-for-28 (.107) in his past nine games, but Collins is seeing slight improvements, such as a 10-pitch at-bat that resulted in a walk in the third inning Tuesday night. Lagares, who batted leadoff, worked the count into his favor at 3-1 before fouling off five consecutive pitches and then coaxing the pass to first base.
Lagares fouled off a total of nine pitches in his four plate appearances, not counting a foul-tip strikeout. He also saw 26 total pitches, the highest number for any player on either team Tuesday.
“He had that one absolutely great at-bat,” Collins said. “That was a tremendous at-bat. That’s what you want to see, that kind of stuff. You want to fight off balls you can’t hit and make [the pitcher] work. Everybody saw it and knows what’s going on.”
Lagares has 772 major league plate appearances, so a touch over what would constitute a full season. He has 137 of those from the leadoff spot, where he has been relatively productive with a .319 on-base percentage. Collins has recognized that trend and said before Tuesday’s game that he could eventually see Lagares as an everyday leadoff man with Curtis Granderson dropping to the second spot. The idea being that if Lagares can up his OBP, it would give the left-handed-hitting Granderson a hole to pull the ball through on the right side.
Of course this is all dependent on whether Lagares can develop into the kind of hitter who consistently puts pressure on a pitcher and defense with his ability to handle the bat. Because of how inept the Mets’ offense has been, these final six weeks of the regular season could be his job interview for that spot in the order.
“He’s going to get it. He’s going to be a good player,” Collins said. “We ask a lot of Juan Lagares for a guy who basically has one full year in the big leagues, but it’s because other guys aren't getting it done. So then you have to look at someone else.”
Applying the brakes: The Mets are the league’s worst-scoring team in August, have the fewest hits, the lowest OBP, slugging percentage and OPS for the month, and have stolen just six bases during the dog days.
While the offense looks for signs of life, Collins said being aggressive on the bases for the sake of being aggressive is not the answer and is more likely to kill rallies than spark them. This is because the Mets lack an instinctive base stealer.
“My experience being around all those baserunners: Guys who want to run, they’ll run. They’re looking to run,” Collins said. “When you put the steal on and guys are iffy, they always come up with reasons why they didn't get a good jump. That’s a bad feeling.”
The team doesn't have seasoned base stealers, meaning guys who might have the necessary instincts don't have the polish to be prolific just yet. And just because a guy is fast doesn't mean he can rack up big steal numbers. Even Granderson has never stolen more than 26 bases in a season.
“I’m a huge believer in baserunning, but sometimes the guys getting on aren't the guys you can run,” Collins said.
“A lot of it [is instinctive]. Jeff Bagwell was the best I’ve ever been around. He stole 31 bases one year. I’ve seen this guy get three steps and the pitcher is still holding the ball. He would just get great jumps.”
Lagares is a guy who could maybe become a steal threat, but he still doesn’t know how to read pitchers well enough, according to Collins, comparing his lack of experience to the Los Angeles Dodgers' concerns with Yasiel Puig on the bases.
Colon bereavement update: The Mets know when Bartolo Colon will return to the rotation, but Collins was not ready to share that information publicly before Wednesday’s game. Colon’s next turn would come Sunday against the Dodgers.
Injury news: Left-hander Dana Eveland is unavailable against Oakland because of tendinitis in his elbow, or what he referred to as “tennis elbow.” Eveland said he’s always had soreness there for much of his career, and he’s pitched through it this season, but it finally became too much to deal with, and the medical staff gave him a cortisone shot.
Eveland will play catch Thursday and plans to throw a bullpen before Friday’s game to determine his availability.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis was scheduled to start in right field, but the stiff neck that shut him down Tuesday was still too painful to keep him in the lineup Wednesday. Matt den Dekker replaced Lagares in center, while Eric Campbell was inserted at DH, and Granderson shifted from DH to right field in place of Nieuwenhuis.
FIRST PITCH: Seven hits!
The Mets’ string of games producing four hits or fewer ended at five straight on Tuesday -- tied for the longest streak in the majors since 1900.
The Amazin’s streak of facing aces will continue.
Zack Wheeler (8-8, 3.49 ERA) opposes former Chicago Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija (5-9, 2.96) in the finale of an abbreviated series in Oakland at 3:35 p.m. ET Wednesday.
Wheeler is 5-0 with a 2.02 ERA in his past nine starts.
Wednesday’s news reports:
• Dillon Gee walked light-hitting No. 9 batter Eric Sogard with two outs in the fourth ahead of a three-run triple by Coco Crisp and Scott Kazmir and the A’s went on to beat the Mets, 6-2, Tuesday. Gee is now 0-5 with a 5.71 ERA in seven starts since the All-Star break.
Josh Reddick added a two-run homer in the eighth against Gonzalez Germen, who was called up while Bartolo Colon is on bereavement leave.
Travis d'Arnaud homered, but it was another quiet hitting day by the Mets, who had Daniel Murphy resting and Curtis Granderson in the No. 2 hole as part of Terry Collins’ lineup shakeup.
Oakland snapped a five-game losing streak.
The Mets (59-68) are nine games under .500 for the first time since July 7.
Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Star-Ledger, Newsday and at MLB.com.
• Jacob deGrom faced batters during a throwing session Tuesday in Oakland and has been declared ready to return from the disabled list on Saturday at Dodger Stadium. With deGrom poised to be activated, Rafael Montero could get bullpen action Wednesday against the A’s. The Mets won’t need to make a roster move until Saturday to clear space for deGrom. And if Colon isn’t activated until Sunday, Germen could go first. Read more in the Post, Daily News, Newsday, Star-Ledger and at MLB.com.
• Jenrry Mejia “has expressed dismay to confidants in recent days about the fact he has been used lately in several non-save situations, but before the Mets faced the Athletics on Tuesday said he’s on the same wavelength with manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen,” Mike Puma writes in the Post.
• Kirk Nieuwenhuis was unavailable Tuesday because of a stiff neck.
• Danny Muno had a three-run homer as part of a three-hit night as Las Vegas beat Omaha, 10-4. Michael Fulmer allowed six runs in 3 1/3 innings in his Double-A debut as Binghamton was shut out at Erie, 7-0. Victor Cruzado homered and drove in four runs in Savannah’s 11-3 win against Rome. Read the full minor-league recap here.
• Jared Diamond in the Journal contrasts the Mets and A’s, who have similar payrolls and disparate success. Writes Diamond:
As previously reported by the Journal, teams throughout history with a $100 million player taking up more than 20% of the payroll have a cumulative winning percentage of .455.
The A's don't have that problem. Their highest-paid player on opening day, outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, was due $10.5 million this year, which represented around 12.8% of the payroll. Their three highest-paid players -- Cespedes, reliever Jim Johnson and starter Scott Kazmir -- made up 35.8% of the payroll. (Cespedes was traded to Boston for [Jon] Lester last month.)
• Mike Vorkunov in the Star-Ledger chronicles Kazimr’s path from prominence to independent ball and back to prominence.
• Marc Carig in Newsday speaks with Lucas Duda about his success at the plate.
• From the bloggers …Blogging Mets wonders when and why run differential became so important.
BIRTHDAYS: St. Lucie reliever Robby Coles turns 23. ... Cory Sullivan is 35. ... Lance Broadway is 31.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: What lineup change would you most like to see to inject some life in the offense?
You're not a true #Mets fan unless you stay up for the entire game and cry yourself to sleep afterwards— Marsha Landar (@MARSHALANDAR) August 20, 2014
FIRST PITCH: With a pledge to play younger, homegrown players to determine their readiness to contribute in 2015 now in effect, the Mets continue a series at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday at 7:05 p.m.
Dillon Gee (4-4, 3.73 ERA) opposes left-hander Cole Hamels (6-6, 2.42).
Terry Collins, who sat Lucas Duda in New York against Hamels, said Duda will start against the southpaw this time. Part of the Mets’ gauging players for next season is determining Duda’s aptitude against left-handed pitching.
Duda is 1-for-13 with seven strikeouts and five walks in his career against Hamels.
This will be Duda’s second straight start against a southpaw. He went 0-for-3 against Gio Gonzalez in D.C.
Saturday’s news reports:
• Chris Young was designated for assignment after Friday’s game, as the Mets prepare to eat what remains of his one-year, $7.25 million contract. Matt den Dekker, who leads the Pacific Coast League with a .334 average, planned to take a redeye and join the Mets on Saturday in Philly. Collins said den Dekker will regularly start in left field, with Kirk Nieuwenhuis seeing action at all three outfield positions and serving as a lefty pinch hitter. Eric Young Jr. primarily will start against southpaws.
The den Dekker promotion is consistent with the Mets’ commitment to now give Wilmer Flores a serious look as a shortstop, to gauge his ability to handle the role in 2015.
Read more on the dumping of Young and the change of focus in the Post, Daily News, Newsday, Journal, Star-Ledger and at MLB.com.
• Bartolo Colon watched from the clubhouse as a four-run ninth-inning lead nearly slipped away, but he ultimately notched win No. 200 as the Mets beat the Phillies, 5-4, Friday. Colon became the third Dominican-born pitcher to reach that plateau, joining Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez. Jenrry Mejia kept a promise to Colon by stranding the tying run at third base. Meija’s calf remained tight, but he pitched through the issue.
Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Times, Newsday, Star-Ledger and at MLB.com.
• Jeremy Hefner will be sent to New York to be examined by team doctors after experiencing a forearm issue during Wednesday’s minor-league start with Class A St. Lucie. Hefner is unsure if the injury is linked to the Tommy John surgery he underwent last August.
• Collins has no intention of dropping David Wright from the No. 3 hole.
• Danny Muno had a two-run double in a five-run eighth as Las Vegas rallied to beat Albuquerque, 9-6. Ivan Wilson had a grand slam in Kingport’s 16-10 win against Bristol. Jeff Diehl had a go-ahead two-run double in Brooklyn’s 4-2 win against Mahoning Valley. Read the full minor-league recap here.
• Matt Harvey is scheduled for his third mound session on Saturday.
• Daisuke Matsuzaka (elbow) should pitch in a rehab game early next week.
• Lloyd Carroll in the Queens Chronicle weighs in on the Mets.
BIRTHDAYS: The late Tommie Agee was born on this date in 1942. ... Pat Mahomes turns 44. ... Minor-league left-hander T.J. Chism turns 26. ... Savannah first baseman/DH Matt Oberste is 23.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
The 41-year-old Colon recorded career win No. 200 as the Mets beat the Phillies 5-4 in Friday’s series opener at Citizens Bank Park.
Colon departed with a 5-1 lead after eight innings. After Dana Eveland allowed the first two batters of the ninth to reach, Jenrry Mejia converted the save -- barely.
Mejia, who had experienced lower-back tightness Monday and calf tightness Thursday, allowed a single to Marlon Byrd that loaded the bases with none out. He then allowed a two-run double to Grady Sizemore. Cody Asche eventually contributed a run-scoring groundout for the second out, but Mejia left the tying run at third base by striking out Reid Brignac.
Colon joined Juan Marichal (243 wins) and Pedro Martinez (219) as the only Dominican-born pitchers to reach the 200-win plateau.
He also became the third pitcher to achieve No. 200 as a Met, joining Orel Hershiser in 1999 and Martinez in 2006.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only three pitchers in the past 90 years have notched win No. 200 when they were older than Colon: Tim Wakefield (age 45), Charlie Hough (44) and Jamie Moyer (42).
The Mets improved to 9-4 in the season series against the Phillies. The Amazin’s have won 11 of their past 13 games at Citizens Bank Park.
A.J. Burnett surrendered 11 hits -- matching Atlanta’s Julio Teheran on July 8 for the most a starting pitcher has allowed against the Mets this season. Burnett departed trailing 5-0 after six innings.
He managed to keep the game scoreless by coaxing a bases-loaded groundout from Lucas Duda in the third. Travis d'Arnaud, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Juan Lagares and Wilmer Flores then consecutively produced hits to open what became a four-run fourth. Over that two-inning span, eight Mets in a 10-batter stretch reached base against Burnett. (And, really, it’s 8 of 9 reaching, since Colon’s strikeout shouldn’t count, right?)
A fifth-inning solo homer by d’Arnaud, who originally was drafted by the Phillies, upped the lead to 5-0. (D’Arnaud was traded to Toronto for Roy Halladay, who threw out Friday’s ceremonial first pitch.)
Colon took a scoreless effort into the seventh inning.
After a leadoff single by Chase Utley in the fourth, Colon survived consecutive shots from Ryan Howard and Byrd that settled into Lagares’ glove just in front of the 401-foot marker on the center-field wall. Byrd’s leadoff homer in the seventh finally got Philadelphia on the scoreboard.
Colon’s line: 8 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 1 HR.
Kids' play: In the first game since Terry Collins announced Flores and Nieuwenhuis would get legitimate auditions, both contributed. Flores finished 2-for-4 with an RBI and run scored. Nieuwenhuis went 1-for-4 with a run scored.
Ouch: Plate ump Mike Winters was struck by a pitch from Burnett in the first inning. He completed the game with a huge welt on his right wrist.
What’s next: Dillon Gee (4-4, 3.73 ERA) opposes left-hander Cole Hamels (6-6, 2.42) at 7:05 p.m. Saturday. Gee is 0-4 with a 6.85 ERA since the All-Star break.
Getty ImagesWilmer Flores and Kirk Nieuwenhuis are due for increased playing time.
As a result, Wilmer Flores and Kirk Nieuwenhuis now are expected to get serious looks, Terry Collins said before Friday's series opener against the Philadelphia Phillies. That will come at the expense of Ruben Tejada and Chris Young.
Collins said the plan came as the result of a conversation Thursday with Sandy Alderson.
Lucas Duda also will be afforded the opportunity to prove he can handle left-handed pitching. So he will get a chance Saturday to start against southpaw Cole Hamels, according to Collins. Eric Campbell started in New York against Hamels over Duda during the Mets' last homestand.
Collins said the Flores decision boils down to wanting to determine whether he can play shortstop at the major league level.
"Everybody has said they think he's going to hit," Collins said. "Now, how much is he going to hit? Is he going to hit for power? Or is he going to hit for average? And the big question is: Is he going to be able to play the middle of the infield. You guys have written it many times. That's going to be the question. So the only way to find out is to put him out in the middle of the infield. We're in a situation right now where we want to find out.
"Obviously he is not the prototypical, rangy shortstop, but he has shown a strong arm. He's shown good hands."
Meanwhile, Collins agreed that Tejada profiles as a very good backup middle infielder. But there are no immediate plans to expose Tejada to second base again, according to the manager. Flores would play second base and Tejada shortstop if Daniel Murphy was not in the lineup.
"We don't know what's going to happen, so I need to expose him to both sides," Collins said about Flores.
The pitcher’s slot was due up fourth the following half-inning, and Collins wanted to avoid Familia batting, knowing the reliever would continue pitching in the ninth. As it turned out, the Mets went 1-2-3 in the top half and Familia would not have batted anyway.
Asked if it was a tough call to double-switch out his best defensive outfielder, Collins replied: “You mean Juan? I thought the guy that went in did pretty good.”
Collins was referring to Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who moved from left field to center field once Lagares departed. Nieuwenhuis, celebrating his 27 th birthday on Thursday, ended up making a pair of late highlight-reel catches. That included a diving catch in left-center to end the 11th inning. Jose Lobaton's shot otherwise would have been a gapper that could have plated the winning run from first base.
The Mets ultimately lost, 5-3, in 13 innings anyway.
“Yeah, it’s tough to take him out,” Collins eventually conceded about Lagares. “But the reason we can is the other guy is real good. And we’re really lucky that he’s here right now, because as I said before, before Juan Lagares hopped on the scene, Kirk Nieuwenhuis was the go-to guy in center field. We had to get innings out of guys and try to come up with some offense somehow.”
Carlos Torres, the last remaining reliever, surrendered a two-run homer to Bryce Harper in bottom of the 13th as the Mets suffered a 5-3 walk-off defeat against the Nationals in the rubber game on Thursday afternoon. Torres has surrendered at least one run in four of his past five appearances. He did not record an out.
The Mets (54-61) dropped nine games behind first-place Washington.
Off the hook: A quality start was not enough to prolong deGrom’s winning streak, but a seventh-inning rally saved the rookie right-hander from getting tagged with a loss.
With the Mets trailing 3-1, deGrom departed for pinch hitter Kirk Nieuwenhuis in the seventh. The Mets evened the score that inning against Jordan Zimmermann and Drew Storen.
DeGrom’s winning streak nonetheless was snapped at five straight starts, two shy of matching the franchise rookie record shared by Jason Isringhausen (1995), Ron Darling (1984) and Dwight Gooden (1984).
DeGrom’s franchise rookie record streak of 67 1/3 consecutive innings without allowing a homer also ended. Ian Desmond produced a two-run shot in the second inning to open the game’s scoring. DeGrom had not surrendered a homer since June 5, to Travis Wood at Wrigley Field.
Desmond plated Adam LaRoche for the second time in the game on an RBI single in the fourth to stake Washington to a 3-1 lead.
DeGrom’s final line: 6 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HR. He now is 6-5 with a 2.87 ERA for the season.
Rally time: Nieuwenhuis improved to 7-for-17 as a pinch hitter this season when he delivered a one-out single in the seventh that advanced Wilmer Flores to second and chased Zimmermann. Storen entered and uncorked a wild pitch with Eric Young Jr. batting that advanced both runners.
E.Y. Jr. then smoked a liner to right-center. Jayson Werth ran it down in the gap, but Flores tagged up and scored to move the Mets within 3-2. Curtis Granderson, in the midst of a 1-for-23 rut, then singled past Desmond at shortstop and into center field to plate Nieuwenhuis and even the score at 3.
Hit man: Daniel Murphy continued to torment Zimmermann. Murphy went 3-for-3 against the ace, including an RBI double in the third that pulled the Mets within 2-1. Murphy has 16 hits against Zimmermann, the most of any major leaguer.
Get out of the way: In only his second start since July 26, E.Y. Jr. arguably cost the Mets a run. Young stepped in front of Juan Lagares in left-center and fielded Desmond’s fourth-inning single. E.Y. Jr. casually returned the ball to the infield, allowing LaRoche to score from second base.
All aboard! The Mets take Amtrak to Philly for a four-game wraparound series. Bartolo Colon (10-9, 4.12 ERA) opposes Phillies right-hander A.J. Burnett (6-11, 4.16) in Friday’s 7:05 p.m. opener at Citizens Bank Park.
FIRST PITCH: Reigning NL Rookie of the Month Jacob deGrom is making a run at a franchise rookie record.
DeGrom (6-5, 2.77 ERA) has won five straight starts, the longest streak by a Mets rookie since Dillon Gee also won five straight in 2011.
The Mets rookie record is seven straight starts with a win, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. It was accomplished three times: by Jason Isringhausen (1995), Ron Darling (1984) and Dwight Gooden (1984).
DeGrom opposes right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (7-5, 3.00) at 12:35 p.m. Thursday in the rubber game against the Washington Nationals.
Thursday’s news reports:
• Jonathon Niese surrendered homers to Adam LaRoche and Danny Espinosa and dropped to 0-4 with a 5.76 ERA in four starts since returning from the disabled list as Washington beat the Mets, 7-1, Wednesday. Niese insisted he is healthy. He suggested he revised his mechanics to avoid irritating his shoulder and has struggled with command as he adjusts to the delivery tweaks.
With Wednesday’s loss, the Mets (54-60) trail the first-place Nats by eight games. The Amazin’s run differential now stands at only plus-one for the season. The Mets are seven back in the wild card.
Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Newsday, Star-Ledger, Record, Times and at MLB.com.
• David Wright faults his struggles on tinkering, not injury. Writes columnist John Harper in the Daily News:
He insists his left shoulder, in which he received a cortisone shot nearly a month ago, is not a factor in hitting .194 so far in the second half.
Instead Wright is convinced that he turned himself into a mental mess at the plate, so quick to make changes and adjustments that essentially he has forgotten how to hit.
“I’ve made some mistakes this year, revamping some things with my swing that I probably shouldn’t mess with,” he was saying on Wednesday. “Especially after the All-Star break I started trying to change things when I didn’t get the results I wanted. Pretty soon you’re trying something new every at-bat and thinking about all the wrong things.
“Instead of realizing there are going to be times during the season when you’re going to have a hiccup and you need to ride it out, I was too quick to make adjustments, and you get to the point where you can’t remember what it felt like when you were going good.”
• Mets ownership has yet to pick up Sandy Alderson’s 2015 option, but columnist David Lennon in Newsday expects that to be a formality. Writes Lennon:
Alderson has a job now, presumably one he enjoys, and the impression here is that it should be only a matter of weeks before some kind of extension is announced. Alderson's original four-year contract expires in October. But he has an option for 2015, and we've always believed the only way he is ever stripped of the GM title is if Alderson chooses to leave Flushing on his own.
Although that's always possible, Alderson sounded Wednesday like someone who wants to stay on to see the Mets become a legitimate contender again -- and that won't be accomplished by the end of this season.
• Darren Rovell at ESPN.com has more on the Mets’ toy truck giveaway that included a Phillies logo. Essentially, the manufacturer took responsibility for a packaging error.
• Bill Price in the Daily News has a feature on deGrom, with additional material here.
• San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence had a playful response Wednesday to those weekend signs at Citi Field taunting him.
• Greg Peavey tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings and Brian Burgamy and Dustin Lawley homered in Binghamton’s 5-1 win against Richmond. Dilson Herrera departed the game in the sixth after jamming a finger on a headfirst slide. Brandon Nimmo has been sidelined since Sunday with hand soreness. Jeremy Hefner allowed three runs and lasted only one inning, but St. Lucie scored six unearned runs in a 6-5 win against Fort Myers. Rob Whalen and Akeel Morris combined on a shutout in Game 1 and Stefan Sabol had two long balls, including a walk-off shot, in the nightcap as Savannah swept a doubleheader against Charleston. Read the full minor-league recap here.
• The Toronto Blue Jays acquired Class A right-hander Hunter Carnevale from the Mets for cash.
• Matt Harvey dunked himself in an ice-cold pool for a good cause.
• Sandy Alderson discussed with ESPNNewYork.com why Kirk Nieuwenhuis was promoted over Matt den Dekker.
• Alderson all but said Bartolo Colon had not completed the waiver process as of Wednesday.
• Will Noah Syndergaard or Rafael Montero appear in the majors this season? Alderson was noncommittal with Mike Puma in the Post. “I’m not really speculating about what we’re going to do a month from now, in terms of bringing [Syndergaard] up or Montero or what have you,” Alderson told Puma. “We’ll see what happens here and see how they continue to perform.”
Syndergaard is due to face Albuquerque on Thursday. He has allowed only two runs (one earned) in 17 1/3 innings over his past three starts. Montero has tossed 14 2/3 scoreless innings over his past two starts.
Read more in the Daily News.
• Jared Diamond in the Journal examines Lucas Duda against left-handed pitching.
• Read more on Darryl Strawberry serious allegation against former teammate Kevin Mitchell in the Post.
BIRTHDAYS: Nieuwenhuis turns 27. ... Hawaiian Tyler Yates is 37. ... Danny Graves is 41.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
GM Sandy Alderson told ESPNNewYork.com the decision partly was based on Nieuwenhuis being more accustomed to a reserve role, which is what the responsibility currently entails.
"It had a little bit to do with the role," Alderson said. "Nieuwy had played as a bench player up here, had platooned in left field. It was probably a more familiar role for him than for Matt. And the fact that [Nieuwenhuis] had been up earlier in the year and had done a pretty good job for us was probably a factor as well."
Asked about den Dekker's performance this season, including a relatively modest 25 strikeouts in 161 at-bats since a June 18 demotion to Triple-A, Alderson said: "Offensively, he's swinging the bat really well. The other thing to take into account is, OK, so what role is he going to play for us, as I just explained with Nieuwenhuis. But obviously we're cognizant of what Matt's doing and we're pleased about it."
Alderson was cagey when asked whether any call-up would wait until September, after rosters have expanded. Still, Alderson seemed to clearly imply that waiting was the likely course of action. Promoting den Dekker sometime in the next 25 days would require dumping Chris Young in all likelihood.
Might there be an opportunity before Sept. 1 for den Dekker?
"There could be," Alderson replied, "but we're not that far from Sept. 1."
Pressed if Abreu was the last subtraction this month, or whether someone like Young might be vulnerable, Alderson added: "We're always evaluating our roster, but as I said, we're getting close to Sept. 1. So it's not a material issue."
FIRST PITCH: The Mets entered their series at Washington having lost 10 of their last 11 games against the Nationals.
Now, after a victory in Tuesday’s opener, the Mets attempt to make it two in a row on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. at Nationals Park.
Jonathon Niese (5-7, 3.24 ERA) opposes right-hander Doug Fister (10-3, 2.68).
Before the game, the Mets will visit Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
“It’s going to be a humbling experience,” Daniel Murphy said.
Wednesday’s news reports:
• Zack Wheeler had a 33-pitch second inning and allowed the first two batters to reach in four of his seven innings. Yet Wheeler managed to limit Washington to one run in 6 2/3 innings as the Mets beat the Nationals, 6-1, Tuesday. Wheeler is 4-0 with a 1.59 ERA in his past seven starts.
Eric Campbell threw out Jayson Werth at the plate and Juan Lagares had another big-time catch to stymie the Nats.
The Mets now own a 54-59 record and trail first-place Washington by seven games. The Mets also are seven games out in the wild card.
Lucas Duda, starting against a left-hander, went 0-for-3 against Gio Gonzalez but contributed after the southpaw’s departure.
Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Star-Ledger, Record, Newsday, Times and at MLB.com.
• Columnist John Harper in the Daily News believes that while the Mets might trade from their pitching surplus this offseason, Wheeler is making himself practically untouchable.
• In his first “official” mound session, Matt Harvey threw 20 pitches in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Tuesday afternoon and pronounced the activity a success. Watch video at TCPalm.com. Read more in the Times, Daily News, Newsday, Journal and at MLB.com.
• Stan Conte, vice president of medical services for the Los Angeles Dodgers, tells Marc Carig in Newsday that 12 months appears the minimum prudent recovery time following Tommy John surgery.
"When we start seeing some of these guys with a second Tommy John, it worries me as the guy who does the rehab that we're going too fast," Conte told Carig. "I don't want the perception to be that everybody comes backs at 12 months, and if they come back at 14 months, they're behind schedule. We do this all the time. Everybody quotes the same thing. It's 12 to 18 months. But nobody pays attention to the 18 months."
• Columnist Mike Vaccaro in the Post suggests that Masahiro Tanaka and Harvey throwing on consecutive days provide hope for both New York teams.
• Mets games on SNY are the seventh-most popular programming in prime time in New York -- one of the lowest rankings for a team in its home city, according to Nielsen data compiled by Maury Brown at Forbes. Yankees games on YES rank third in NYC in prime time. Twelve teams are the most popular prime-time programming in their home cities.
• Rafael Montero allowed one hit in eight scoreless innings and Matt den Dekker had another multi-hit game as Las Vegas blanked Sacramento, 3-0. Tyler Pill tossed seven scoreless innings and Brian Burgamy had four RBIs as Binghamton built a big lead and held on to beat Richmond, 9-6. Miller Diaz had a seven-inning shutout as Savannah split a doubleheader with Charleston. Read the full minor-league recap here.
• Ever spot those red marks on the necks of Mets players, particularly on Daisuke Matsuzaka? Jared Diamond in the Journal speaks with players about the ancient Chinese technique of cupping therapy, which several Mets -- and other major leaguers -- employ with the team’s blessing.
Not everyone is sold it is effective, though.
"There's absolutely zero evidence that cupping has any kind of positive role in medicine," Barrie Cassileth, the chief of integrative medicine service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, told Diamond. "I cannot conceive of any benefit except a psychological benefit.”
• The Mets accidentally gave away a toy truck with a Phillies logo on the side during their last homestand, Eliot Shorr-Parks writes at NJ.com.
• Darryl Strawberry said allegations that a former teammate beheaded a cat in the mid-1980s are true, Bernie Augustine writes in the Daily News.
• Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who had a pinch-hit RBI single in his return to the majors Tuesday, told MLB.com pregame about his season of promotions and demotions: "You try and keep it on as much of an even keel as possible. I think one thing that's really been more evident to me this year is that it kind of builds character. I think you can really take some good stuff out of it. You really learn that you can only control how you play. You learn that it's a business in baseball."
BIRTHDAYS: Wilmer Flores turns 23. ... Victor Zambrano, who once was traded for Scott Kazmir, is 39. ... Reigning South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week John Gant is 22.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
Wheeler faced a pair of baserunners aboard and none out in four of the seven innings he worked and had high early pitch counts (46 through two innings, 65 through three innings). Yet he somehow managed to limit Washington to one run in 6 2/3 innings as the Mets produced a 6-1 win against the first-place Nationals on Tuesday night.
The Amazin's won for only the second time in their last dozen games against the Nats. With 49 games remaining, the Mets (54-59) now trail Washington by seven games.
Wheeler issued three walks and a wild pitch in a rocky second inning, but limited the damage to one run in that frame.
Wheeler's final line in a 109-pitch outing: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 5 K.
Thanks! A pair of Nats plays on the bases helped Wheeler improve to 4-0 with a 1.59 ERA in his past seven starts.
A half-inning after the Mets took a 2-0 lead on Wheeler’s two-out bloop single in front of sliding right fielder Jayson Werth, Wheeler loaded the bases with three walks in the second. With No. 8 hitter Jose Lobaton batting, Wheeler then uncorked a wild pitch that got the Nats on the scoreboard and advanced Ian Desmond to third base and Asdrubal Cabrera to second base.
Lobaton then hit what should have been a run-scoring groundout to shortstop. However, the grounder struck Cabrera as he was running to third base. He was ruled out. And Desmond, who was racing home, was forced to return to third base on the dead ball. Wheeler ultimately stranded Desmond there. He ended the 33-pitch inning by coaxing a flyout from opposing pitcher Gio Gonzalez.
Still clinging to that 2-1 lead in the sixth, Wheeler surrendered a leadoff double to Werth. Adam LaRoche then singled to left field, and Nats third-base coach Bob Henley waved home Werth. Making only his second major league start in left field, natural infielder Eric Campbell threw out Werth for his second career outfield assist. A replay review initiated by the crew confirmed Travis d'Arnaud had not improperly blocked the plate.
Campbell also had an outfield assist May 22 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. That happened to be Campbell’s only other major league start in left field. That time, Yasiel Puig was doubled off second base on Hanley Ramirez's lineout.
Adding on: The Mets finally got some breathing room in the seventh.
After Gonzalez departed with a pair of Mets on base and none out, Wheeler laid down a sacrifice bunt against Drew Storen. Juan Lagares was drilled with a pitch in the left arm to load the bases. And Daniel Murphy followed with a two-run single passed Cabrera’s backhand at second base as the Mets took a 4-1 lead. Lucas Duda added an RBI single later in the frame.
Had the recently acquired Cabrera been able to field Murphy’s grounder on the arguably makeable play, the Nats may have escaped with an inning-ending double play, still only trailing by a run.
Ouch: Lagares received an escort off the field from trainer Ray Ramirez and Terry Collins after appearing to twist his left ankle -- and possibly landing on an arm -- on an inning-ending catch in the seventh that stranded a runner at third base. Lagares remained in the game.
Audition flop: Getting a rare start against a left-hander, Duda went 0-for-3 against Gonzalez with two groundouts.
Welcome back: In his return to the majors, Kirk Nieuwenhuis had a pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth against Blake Treinen that staked the Mets to a 6-1 lead.
What’s next: Jonathon Niese (5-7, 3.24 ERA) opposes right-hander Doug Fister (10-3, 2.68) at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday.
Duda finally gets a shot against a left-handed pitcher Tuesday, versus Gio Gonzalez in the series opener against the Washington Nationals.
“Our lefties have hit Gio in the past,” Collins said. “I just thought this is going to be a good test for Lucas to see how he approaches them. I know Gio’s tough. He’s a great pitcher. But we’ve been talking about giving him that opportunity and this was a good matchup for him.”
Lefties are hitting .233 against Gonzalez this season. Righties are hitting .237.
Gonzalez becomes the 24th southpaw to start against the Mets this season. It will be Duda’s seventh start against a lefty. He also has faced Franklin Morales, Vidal Nuno, Alex Wood, Mike Minor, Brad Hand and Roenis Elias.
The Mets next see a southpaw Saturday in Philly. And Collins already has resolved that Duda will not get a crack at Hamels. Duda is 1-for-13 with five walks in his career against Hamels.
“Lucas has faced him enough to know that it’s not a guy he hits,” Collins said.
Hitting coach Lamar Johnson has been working with Duda on attacking balls up in the strike zone -- thigh high or above, at least -- while laying off lower pitches. The staff has concluded Duda’s best contact occurs on the upper-strike-zone pitches.
Duda’s numbers against southpaws have declined each of the last four seasons in the majors, from .274 in 2011, to .238 in 2012, to .183 in 2013 and .161 this year.
Collins suggested the decline is related to Duda attempting to pull the ball more as he has become a more integral part of the lineup who is charged with driving in runs.
“He’s a little more of a pull hitter than when he first got here,” the manager said.
Collins added that Duda has taken playing -- or not playing -- against southpaws in stride.
“He doesn’t say anything when he’s in the lineup,” Collins said. “He doesn’t say anything when he’s out of the lineup.”
Day off: With the Mets in the midst of playing 20 straight days, Curtis Granderson has been given a day off Tuesday. Collins said he soon will give David Wright a day off, too.
Granderson had started 11 straight games since missing a pair of games in Seattle while ill.
Back to work: Jenrry Mejia, who revealed he experienced lower-back tightness during Monday’s ninth-inning loss against San Francisco, appears OK.
“He hit the side of the landing hole and just said he tweaked his back a little bit,” Collins said. “He’s fine.”
Welcome back: The decision about whether Kirk Nieuwenhuis will be in the lineup is “going to be day to day right now,” Collins said.
Collins added: “For sure, we’re going to try to get him some more playing time.”
Collins said he had no role in Nieuwenhuis being selected for a promotion over Matt den Dekker with Bobby Abreu having been designated for assignment.
“Sandy said, ‘Kirk’s coming,’” Collins said.
Last stand? The Mets trail the first-place Nats by eight games, so anything less than a sweep of this three-game series will be unacceptable, right?
“You’d like to, but you better worry about winning two out of three, because they’re pretty good,” Collins said. “We’ve got them six times in the next 10 days. So we’ve got to make the most of it if we expect to get back in this race.”
FIRST PITCH: The season already has pretty much gotten away from the Mets, but they’ll make another last stand during a three-game series in D.C. that opens Tuesday.
Surging Zack Wheeler (6-8, 3.60 ERA) opposes Washington Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez (6-7, 3.88) at 7:05 p.m.
Wheeler is 3-0 with a 1.63 ERA in his past six starts. He also is 1-4 with a 4.75 ERA in five career starts against Washington, which occupies first place in the division.
Read the Mets-Nats series preview here.
Meanwhile, although Matt Harvey actually already threw off the slope of a mound Friday at Citi Field, the Mets are billing the ace’s Tuesday afternoon activity in Port St. Lucie, Fla., as the real launch of the mound phase of his return from Tommy John surgery.
“It’s like the official day,” Harvey said.
The procedure was performed on Oct. 22, 2013.
Although Harvey continues to express interest in pitching even an inning in the majors this season, Sandy Alderson suggested the realistic target for a game is the low-intensity fall instructional league that spans late September and early October in Florida. Harvey also may make an appearance in the Arizona Fall League before shutting things down for the winter.
Tuesday’s news reports:
• Jenrry Mejia surrendered a tiebreaking RBI double to Pablo Sandoval in the ninth and the Giants beat the Mets, 4-3, Monday to take three of four games in the series. It marked the first time this season Mejia and Jeurys Familia had allowed earned runs in the same game. Both entered Monday with lengthy scoreless-inning streaks.
Mejia experienced lower-back tightness on his left side during Monday’s appearance, but downplayed the severity.
The Mets went 3-4 on the homestand. At 53-59, the Amazin’s trail the Nationals by eight games and trail a wild-card position by seven games.
“We have to win games,” Terry Collins said after Monday’s defeat. “No, I won’t say that’s a good homestand.”
Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Newsday, Times, Journal, Star-Ledger, Record and at MLB.com.
• Not only is Jacob deGrom the reigning NL co-Player of the Week, he now is the NL Rookie of the Month for July, too. DeGrom went 4-1 with a 1.39 ERA and struck out 38 and walked seven in 32 1/3 innings during the month.
• The Mets designated Bobby Abreu for assignment after Monday’s defeat and will add Kirk Nieuwenhuis from Triple-A Las Vegas for Tuesday’s series opener in D.C. Abreu, 40, had been 0-for-his-last-22 as a pinch hitter. He hopes to continue his major league career and plans to play winter ball in Venezuela, but also would be interested in serving as a hitting coach one day. Read more in the Times, Star-Ledger, Newsday and at MLB.com.
• Columnist Mike Vaccaro in the Post wants Chris Young out, too. Writes Vaccaro:
The continuing presence of Young on this roster smacks of contradiction. Alderson has talked tough for years about demanding a culture of accountability on this club. Four months into a season that now sits six games under .500 after Monday’s dyspeptic 4-3 loss to the Giants, Young has plainly shown that his five-year tumble was no aberration, and it should be clear to Alderson that his gamble belongs with the rest of the torn-up tickets at Aqueduct.
• Columnist Bill Madden in the Daily News suggests that while there is promise, the Mets also will have to live with growing pains from young players.
• Hard-throwing lefty reliever Jack Leathersich was promoted from Binghamton to Vegas. John Gant, who took a perfect-game bid into the seventh inning in his most recent start with Savannah, was named South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week.
Logan Verrett took a shutout bid into the ninth inning and Matt den Dekker with 3-for-4 with a solo homer and a walk as Las Vegas beat Sacramento, 4-2. Maikis De La Cruz went 4-for-6 with three RBIs and also reached over the wall to take away a three-run homer in St. Lucie’s 10-4 win against Clearwater. First-round pick Michael Conforto produced another RBI as Brooklyn beat Connecticut, 4-3. Read the full minor-league recap here.
• Juan Lagares went 11-for-25 (.440) during the homestand. Read more on his performance Monday, which included an outfield assist on a throw to the plate, in Newsday.
• From the bloggers … Faith and Fear offers some thoughts on the Mets' youth movement.
BIRTHDAYS: John Olerud turns 46.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Did you want Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Matt den Dekker promoted?
@AdamRubinESPN Chris Young still here why? DenDekker should be on his away too, give 1 of these guys a chance in LF daily— DMurph (@MetsSouthFla) August 4, 2014