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Series Preview: Mets Open Up Inter-league Schedule With Set in Toronto

Tonight, the Mets begin their inter-league schedule with a three-game series against the Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays have been  somewhat of a surprise this year, considering the tough division they play in. They are currently in third place, but are only four games behind the Blue Jays in the division.

The Blue Jays, so far, have been led by a plethora of young, talented arms in their rotation. The Mets could have trouble with all three guys they face in this series. Brandon Morrow has been fantastic and may finally be living up to his potential. Ricky Romero also seems to be continuing the success he had last season with the Jays.

On offense, it’s been all about Edwin Encarnacion. Carnacion has 13 homers and 34 RBI this season, both of which lead his team. Jose Bautista, the one who was supposed to lead the team in every offensive catagory, is hitting just .207 with ten homers.

Overall, the Blue Jays are a team on the rise and could pose a problem for the Mets in this three-game series.

Here are the pitching matchups:

Game 1- Tonight 7:07

Jonathon Niese (39.2 IP, 3,40 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, .224 BAA) vs. Ricky Romero (53.1 IP, 3.88 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, .222 BAA)

Game 2- Saturday 1:07

Miguel Batista (25.1 IP, 4.26 ERA, 1.74 WHIP, .295 BAA) vs. Brandon Morrow (52.2 IP, 2.22 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, .200 BAA)

Game 3- Sunday 1:07

Dillon Gee (43 IP, 5.65 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, .301 BAA) vs. Henderson Alvarez (55 IP, 2.62 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, .244 BAA)

More notes…

Brett Lawrie will miss the entire series after dropping the appeal of his four—game suspension he received for throwing his helmet at an umpire while arguing over balls and strikes. Lawrie is hitting a team-high .281.

Frank Francisco will continue to close for the Mets, despite recent struggles. Francisco has pitched, very, very badly of late, blowing a few games in a row. However, he is only part of the problem. The entire Mets bullpen has struggled this season, so Francisco is only part of the problem in the ‘pen.

David Wright is hitting .411!!!

May 7

Series Preview: Banged-Up Mets Head to Philly

Tonight, the Mets begin a three-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

[caption id=”” align=”alignright” width=”168” caption=”(Photo Courtesy of Michael Baron)”]Jimmy  Rollins 4[/caption]

The Mets play the Phillies, who, up until this point, have been unable to get on any kind of a roll. Many thought before the season that due to the injuries to Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, as well as the age of Jimmy Rollins, their offense would struggle but no one thought it would be this bad. The Phils are in the bottom third in baseball in runs scored, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Catcher Carlos Ruiz has been their best hitter, which is a little odd considering he is a career number seven or eight hitter.

The decent pitching the Phillies have has been the only thing keeping them alive. Despite Cliff Lee (eho will return on Wednesday) hitting the DL, the Phillies’ staff is in the top ten in baseball in quality starts, WHIP, and ERA. Cole Hamels has been stellar, but luckily will not face the Mets in this series.

Here are the pitching matchups for the series:

Game 1- Tonight 7:05

Jon Niese- Niese finally had a bad start in his last outing in Houston. He went only three innings, but that was due to a desparation pinch-hitting move that Terry Collins made in the fourth inning. Niese allowed five earned on six hits in the start.

Roy Halladay- At 35 years old, Halladay is still going strong this season. He is 3-2 with a 3.40 ERA and a 1.110 WHIP. He is averaging about seven innings per outing this year.

Game 2- Tuesday 7:05

Miguel Batista- Here we go with Miguel Batista. The 41 year-old has been awful this year, but somehow got the nod from Terry Collins to join the rotation in place of Chris Schwinden. Batista is 0-1 with a 6.92 ERA this year.

Joe Blanton- You would think that you would have an easy go of it against a team’s fifth starter. That’s not the case with Blanton. He threw a shutout against the Braves in his last start, and has been looking good on the mound thus far in 2012.

Game 3- Wednesday 7:05

Dillon Gee- Gee pitched well on Friday against the D-Backs, tossing six innings of two-run ball. He also walked three and struck out six.

Cliff Lee- Lee, who has been suffering from a strained left oblique, will come off the DL on Wednesday to face the Mets in his first start since April 19. In three starts this year, Lee is 0-1 with a 1.96 ERA.

More notes

Ruben Tejada left yesterday’s game with a strained right quad. Tejada hit the DL today and will be replaced on the roster by Jordanny Valdespin.

— Even with Valdespin in the big leagues, we will probably not see much of him. Terry Colins has expressed his liking for Justin Turner. Turner, not Valdespin, will likely get the majority of the playing time at shortstop. I’m not the biggest fan of having Valdespin ride the bench in the majors. I’d much rather have him getting playing time in Buffalo, developing. For those of you wondering, the rule that states a player cannot be recalled until ten days after they were sent down does not apply if they are replacing an injured player.

Ike Davis is hitless in his last four games, going 0-11, which brings his batting average down to .168. Ike has shown signs of coming back to life, only to return to struggling.

Daniel Murphy, on the other hand, had a great series against Arizona. Murphy was 7-12 in the three games, and had two RBI. It’s great to see that maybe Murphy’s fantastic run at the plate last year may not have been a fluke. Terry Collins has moved him up in the lineup in place of Ike Davis.

—Tonight’s and Wednesday’s pitching matchups should be pretty interesting to watch. Both Niese and Gee have pitched well this season. Their ERA’s don’t quite say that, but each of them had one bad outing that basically ruined their ERAs. Other than that, they have pitched well this season. Of course, they will both be going up against two of Philly’s aces, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.

—Jonathon Paplebon has been great so far for the Phillies, saving nine games and pitching to a 0.82 ERA in 11 innings pitched. Just something to look out for if any of these games are close.

Series Preview: Mets Head Down to Houston (Along With Their Cowboy Boots)

Tonight, the Mets begin their three-game series in Houston against the Astros.

The Mets are coming into this series after taking two of three in Colorado. They were embarrassed in the first game when the Rockies scored 11 runs in the fifth inning alone and won by a score of 18-9. However, they bounced back, winning the next two games 7-5 and 6-5. Friday night’s bullpen blow-up is hopefully a one-time thing.

The Astros, 8-14, have only shown slight improvement from their dreadful season last year. However, one major bright spot has been Wandy Rodriguez. Wandy, 33, is 2-2 this season with a 1.72 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. The Mets will face him in game three.

Here are the pitching matchups…

Game 1- Tonight 8:05

R.A. Dickey- The 3-1 Dickey bounced back from an awful start aginst the Braves on April 18 with a stellar outing against the MArlins. He surrendered only three hits over seven innings, allowing one run and striking out seven.

Bud Norris- Norris hasn’t pitched very well in either of his last two starts. In the first start, in Washington, he allowed ten hits and four earned in six innings. It got worse in his last start, allowing seven runs in 5.2 against the Brewers.

Game 2- Tuesday 8:05

Jon Niese- Niese is still on a roll. In his last start, he allowed two runs over seven innings. He hasn’t failed to go at least six innings so far this season.

J.A. Happ- Happ is 1-1 on the season with a 4.70 ERA. In his last start against the Brewers, he allowed four earned on seven hits over five innings.

Game 3- Wednesday 2:05

Chris Schwinden- Schwinden was part of that awful 18-9 loss to the Rockies on Friday, getting the ball rolling in the fifth inning. He was only charged with six runs, but he couldn’t get an out in the fifth inning.

Wandy Rodriguez- As I mentioned earlier, Wandy is dominating. His worst start this season came on April 11, when he allowed three runs in five innings against the Braves. He is really pitching well.

More notes…

— The Mets flew down to Houston last night in cowboy outfits and there are pictures to prove it.

Andres Torres will lead off and play center field tonight, coming off the DL to play for the first time since Opening Day. Zach Lutz, who was 1 for 8 this season, was sent back down to the minors.

—According to Adam rubin, Terry Collins may still be thinking about keeping Kirk Nieuwenhuis in center field, even though Torres will return.

Ruben Tejada had a nice weekend in Colorado. He went 10-17, raising his batting average 105 points.

Ike Davis had the game-winning RBI-single in yesterday’s 6-5, eleven inning win. Ike has shown flashes of breaking out and finally starting to hit, but it hasn’t quite happened yet.

—Lastly, I just wanted to point out this hilarious article on the Astros from The Onion.

Series Preview: Mets Head Home to Face Giants in Four-Game Set

Tonight at 7:10, the Mets begin their four-game set against the Giants

The Mets return home after losing a best-of-three series to the Braves this week. The series started off on a high note-the only one of the series- with the Mets winning 6-1 on Monday. Dillon Gee dominated the Braves, allowing just one run on four hits. He finished up after seven innings. Ike Davis had a big three-run homer that broke a tie game, making the score 4-1 Mets. The Mets scored on a wild pitch in the seventh, making the game 5-1. Finally, Jason Bay finished up the game with a solo shot in the ninth.

The second and third games were far from pretty. In the second game, Johan Santana had the worst start of his career. He went just 1.1 innings, allowing six runs and throwing 55 pitches. The Braves made him work due to him falling behind early. Johan only threw first pitch strikes to four of 11 batters in his abbreviated outing. The Mets would go on to lose 9-3.

The weather in Atlanta had a big impact on the rubber match of the series. In the early innings, Jair Jurrjens struggled, and R.A. Dickey was stellar. In the warm, humid air in northern Georgia, Dickey’s knuckleball had more movement than I’d ever seen. Braves hitters didn’t have a chance. Then, the rain came and wow did it pour. Dickey was thrown off by the rain, his knuckleball losing its movement, causeing him to struggle. He gave up hit after hit, including three home runs. He ended the day with a loss after giving up eight runs in what would end in a 14-6 loss for the Mets.

The Giants, on the other hand, are coming in to Queens off a series win against the Phillies. The highlight of the series was Wednesday’s pitching duel between Cliff Lee and Matt Cain. Both held each other’s team scoreless for nine innings. Cain left the game after nine, but Lee stayed in- yes, a manager sent a pitcher out for a tenth inning of work. Lee pitched a scoreless tenth, and the Phillies scored in the eleventh to win the game. Cain and Lee both pitched gems, but neither got a win.

Here are the pitching matchups for the series:

Game 1- Tonight 7:10

Jon Niese- Since signing his five-year extension, Jon Niese has been stellar. He is 2-0 on the season with a 2.13 ERA in 12.2 innings pitched. Niese threw seven innings, allowing one run on six hits in his only start against the Giants in his career.

Barry Zito- Zito, considered a failure since signing with the Giants, has surprised everyone this season. He pitched a shutout in his first start of the season,and followed up with another impressive outing his last start. Zito pitched seven innings against the Pirates on April 14, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits while striking out four. Zito is 3-2 with a 3.31 ERA in six career starts against the Mets.

Game 2- Saturday 1:10

Mike Pelfrey- Pelfrey, to everyone’s surprise, has also pitched well this season. After allowing three runs on ten hits in his first start, Pelfrey allowed just one in six innings against the Phillies in his last outing.

Ryan Vogelsong- Vogelsong burst onto the scene last year for the Giants, earning an All-Star selection. He finished the season eleventh in the Cy Young Award voting, ending the year with a 13-7 record to go along with a 2.71 ERA. In his only start this season, he allowed two runs in 6.1 innings.

Game 3- Sunday 1:10

Dillon Gee-Gee, so far, has continued the success he had last season, pitching two decent games so far this season. The last one, on Monday against the Braves, he lasted seven innings and allowed just one run.

Tim Lincecum- “The Freak” has struggled more than he ever has so far this season for the Giants. In each of his three starts, he has allowed at least five runs. So far, he is 0-2 on the season with a 10.54 ERA on the season.

Game 4- Monday 7:10

Johan Santana- Coming off the worst outing of his career, Johan will look to brush back injury concerns against the Giants in the final game of the series.Johan was atrocious in Atlanta, which raised worries about his health. However, all signs still point to him starting the game.

Madison Bumgarner- Bumgarner, a young arm with Cy Young potential, recently signed an extension with the Giants, which could end up being seven years. The deal is very similar to the one Niese signed. Bumgarner allowed two runs in six innings in his last start against the Phillies.

Here are some more random notes:

— I’m excited to see Kirk Nieuwenhuis get some more at-bats from the leadoff spot. So far, he has impressed, showing he can do a little bit of everything. He needs to play well in the coming weeks to keep his job when Andres Torres returns.

— I’m really hoping Johan bounces back, just to get his last start, a big distraction, out of everyone’s minds. He needs to get ahead early, throwing first pitch strikes. If he doesn’t he falls into a groove and becomes predictable.

—There has been so much talk about Tim Lincecum’s struggles this year. I’m really want to see what all the buzz is about.

Ruben Tejada is awesome.

Apr 4

Quick Thoughts: The Niese Deal

I just wanted to quickly let my thoughts on the Jonathon Niese deal be known. For those who are unaware, Niese today agreed to a five-year, $25

million deal, with club options for 2017 and 2018 which could raise the total value of the deal to $46 million. Niese went 11-11 last season with a 4.40 ERA.

I am a huge fan of this deal. Niese is a solid lefty with potential. His numbers don’t look great, (unless you look at the sabermetrics) but he doesn’t exactly have the best supporting cast. Many have compared Niese to the likes of Gio Gonzalez of the Nationals. Gonzalez has better classical numbers, but Niese fares well with the advanced statistics.

[caption id=”” align=”aligncenter” width=”300” caption=”(Courtesy of Rant Sports)”][/caption]

I also like this deal because it essentially puts Niese under team control for seven years. He would become a free agent after 2015 when his arbitration ends, but now at minimum, he will hit the market in 2016, and possibly 2018 if the options are picked up. If he blossoms into a very good pitcher, the Mets won’t have to worry about paying $13 million in arbitration because he is now on a set figure. The Rays may have started a trend last year when they locked up prospect Matt Moore to a long-term deal for a very low price tag.

One last positive that came from this deal was the Mets proving they are financially sound. We all had a decent understanding of what we thought were the Mets finances, and many thought this deal, or one like it would happen, but it’s still relieving. The Mets wouldn’t make this deal if they didn’t believe they could pay it. It’s a good PR move all around.

Hopefully this deal will be worthwhile for the Mets. Who knows? Maybe Jonathon Niese becomes a number one starter. That would be fantastic. Even if Niese only marginally improves, the Mets made a great move in locking up  a young pitcher.

Apr 1

Mets Working on a Five-Year Deal with Lefty Niese

According to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com, the Mets and lefty Jonathon Niese are close to a five-year extension. Though the two sides haven’t agreed on a final total value of the contract, it could be around $30 million. Rubin said in his post:

The eventual deal is believed to be comparable to the five-year, $28.5 million deal that included two team options — for $11 million and $11.5 million — that fellow left-hander Derek Holland signed with the Texas Rangers last month. Both players have comparable major league service time and would have been eligible for free agency after the 2015 season.

The deal will likely have club options for 2017 and 2018.

Niese went 11-11 with a 4.40 ERA last season. Many think he has the talent to become an above-average number two starter.

2012 Season Preview: Starting Rotation

The starting rotation, as you know, can make or break a season. In order to win, you need a solid number one at the top, along with depth, depth, and more depth.

The 2012 Mets rotation, once again, is filled with unknowns. There are veterans looking to prove that they still belong, as well as youth trying to cement their place in the organization. We’ll start at the top.

Number 1 Starter: Johan Santana

[caption id=”” align=”alignright” width=”169” caption=”Johan at his finest (Photo Courtesy of Michael Baron)”]Johan  Santana 6[/caption]

Johan Santana hopes, along with every other Met fan, desperately hopes he can put on the blue and orange once again, and be as successful as he was in years past. The two-time Cy Young Award winner will look to make his first regular season appearance since September 2010 on April 5, Opening Day, against the Washington Nationals.

Santana, 33, is in the fifth year of a six-year, $137.5 million contract he signed when he was traded to the Amazin’s in February of 2008. Last season, Johan missed the entire year recovering from surgery on a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder. Before the injury, he was dominant. One of baseball’s best. With the Mets, he is 40-25 with a 2.85 ERA and a 143 ERA+. In his least season in 2010, Johan went 11-9 with an ERa of just 2.98.

Last season, he attempted a comeback. However, he suffered too many setbacks and never reached the majors. He pitched in limited minor league action, but reportedly finished his end-of-season workouts strong.

This spring, Santana has once again been on the comeback trail. He has yet to suffer a setback and has reached 90 to 91 miles per hour in the radar gun. The results in the box score may not be there, but that doesn’t really matter for a major league pitcher. Hopefully, Johan can come back, stay healthy, and prove he is still elite.

Number 2 starter: R.A. Dickey

R.A. Dickey has been the only rock in the Mets rotation over the past two seasons. Bursting onto the scene as an above-average knuckleball pitcher in 2010, Dickey pitched to a 2.84 ERA while compiling an 11-9 record for a dreadful Mets team. Last year, Dickey proved to be solid once again, pitching to a 3.28 ERA, despite going 8-13.

Dickey may end up being the anchor of the pitching staff once again in 2012 if ace Johan Santana is unable to stay healthy. Dickey has proven that he can eat innings and work through trouble no matter what the situation. He grinds through games, sometimes giving up four or five runs, but he does what the Mets need him to do. Dickey will be a reliable pitcher this season once again, leaving his heart out on the mound every time.

Number 3 starter: Mike Pelfrey

Mike Pelfrey doesn’t deserve to be the number three starter, or even a regular in the rotation, but he will likely be here anyway. It seems like the Mets think they owe him something, which they absolutely don’t.

Pelfrey, 28, has been the poster boy of inconsistency throughout his career. One month you think he is finally developing into an ace, and the next you mistaken him for Oliver Perez. Mike has alternated between very solid and awful since he debuted in 2006. However, those good days are becoming few and far between. In 2011, coming of a 15-9 campaign, Pelfrey hit what seemed to Mets fans as a new low. He finished the year 7-13 with a 4.74 ERA, including a 5.16 ERA in the final two months of the season.

Long thought to be the future savior of the Mets pitching staff, Mike has greatly disappointed and become one of the worst starting pitchers in Major League Baseball. Mike will almost certainly continue this consistency this upcoming season, which may possibly be his last as a Met.

Number 4 starter: Jonathon Niese

While Mike Pelfrey has proven that he won’t be the savior of the Met rotation, Jonathon Niese just may be. The young lefty, who has been the subject of some trade rumors this offseason, is slowly making himself into a very good pitcher. After a 9-10 campaign in which he posted a 4.20 ERA, Niese went 11-11 with a 4.40 ERA in 2011.

Don’t let the ERA fool you— Niese improved. He rose his strikeouts per nine from 7.7 to 7.9 and lowered his walks in a big way, from 3.2 per nine to just 2.5. Many have compared him to NAtionals starter Gio Gonzalez, and rightfully so. Niese, despite what a few of the numbers might say, is a quality pitcher with a bright future ahead of him. He should have a great year in 2012.

Number 5 starter: Dillon Gee

[caption id=”” align=”alignleft” width=”180” caption=”(Photo Courtesy of Michael Baron)”]Dillon  Gee 4[/caption]

Dillon Gee surprised everyone last year with his incredible performance in the first half. Gee, who started out 7-0 and was the last undefeated big league starter before finally losing on June 21.

Gee has been doubted by many in his career. He is certainly not flashy and doesn’t have the best stuff, but Gee is like R.A. Dickey in his approach to the game. Instead of beating you with a killer 12-6 curve, he will outsmart and outwit you. Over his 160.2 innings, he proved that he is a very smart pitcher. He doesn’t have the worst stuff. Gee posesses a decent changeup, but not much else.

Gee finished the year with a 13-6 record and a 4.43 ERA and an 84 ERA+ due to a long period of struggling at the end of last season. What goes up must come down. Gee bounced back to Earth in the last three months, pitching to a 5.42 ERA from July on. However, the promise that Gee showed at the beginning of last year is what we should look to most. Hopefully it will be an indicator of what his future will be like as a New York Met.

Backups

Possible fill-ins for the rotation are scarce on the Mets roster. Ancient Egyptian pitcher Miguel Batista will be the second option behind Bisons hurler Chris Schwinden, who pitched in four games at the end of last year for the Mets. Maybe, if, towards the end of the year, someone gets hurt, stud prospect Matt Harvey could earn a spot on the staff.

Overall: C+

The uncertainty surrounding Johan Santana may be the Mets’ biggest concern when it comes to their starting staff. At this point, it seems like he will be ready for Opening Day, but it is still unclear as to whether that will actually happen. The rest of the staff is alright, with the exception of Pelfrey. Niese and Dickey will give solid innings, and Gee could pitch like he did in the first half of 2011. Those would be real positives for this team. What I am hoping for most this season, however, is seeing Matt Harvey get some big league action. Hopefully the Mets won’t rush him, but I’d really like to see him get some time with the big league club this season.

Check back next week for a bullpen preview!

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Morning News and Notes for 2/24

Here is some news from regarding the Mets organization

Here are some interesting notes from around the web:

  • Michael Baron of MetsBlog interviewed Met infielder Daniel Murphy. Murphy is coming off a major knee injury he suffered last August.                                                                     MY TAKE: I really hope Murphy can gab the job and run with it. His bat is an enormous talent, and it’s sad to see something so valuable being wasted because the Mets can’t find a spot for him. 

Lastly, here is some general baseball news that you may have missed:

Niese, Hairston, headed to DL

Pre-game: Mets (51-51) vs. Reds (50-52)

Here is tonight’s Met lineup:

1. Jose Reyes SS

2. Justin Turner 2B

3. Carlos Beltran RF

4. David Wright 3B

5. Dan Murphy 1B

6. Jason Bay LF

7. Ronny Paulino C

8. Jason Pridie CF

9. Jonathon Niese LHP (9-8, 3.76)

vs. Johnny Cueto RHP (6-3, 1.98)

Pre-game: Mets (49-48) vs. Cardinals (50-47)

Here is today’s Met lineup:

1. Jose Reyes SS

2. Justin Turner 2B

3. Carlos Beltran RF

4. Daniel Murphy 3B

5. Angel Pagan CF

6. Lucas Duda 1B

7. Ronny Paulino C

8. Jason Pridie LF

9. Jonathon Niese LHP (9-7, 3.73)

vs. Jake Westrbrook (7-4, 5.26)