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Daniel Murphy is clutch

April 28, 2011 Leave a comment

You ever the get the feeling when you’re watching a Mets game that the batter will hit a home run on the next pitch?

Well, I can’t say this is completely true about last night, but I was pretty close.

After the debacle of a call by Marvin Hudson that erased Jose Reyes’ one-out triple, the Mets could have easily folded, just like they’ve been accustomed to doing over the last few years.

That’s the type of call that forces some players to say, “Not tonight boys, we’ll get them tomorrow.”

Daniel Murphy stepped in with two outs and no one on base against a pitcher in Tyler Clippard who has been dominant in the late innings, especially against the Mets.

For some reason, I knew Murphy was going to get a big hit. He kept fouling pitches off, waiting for one he can drive.

On the pitch before he went deep, I said to myself this one is it. And sure enough, another foul.

Then Clippard left a change-up straight down the middle and up in the zone, and Murphy clobbered it.

That is easily the biggest hit of the Mets season so far, and hopefully we can expect many more of those out of Murphy.

Though he was a little late covering second base in the next inning, these are the types of growing pains we will have to deal with as he continues to learn the position. However, if he keeps driving in big runs with clutch hits, I’m sure we can forgive him for some minor defensive lapses.

The great thing about Murphy is that he doesn’t settle for just one come-from-behind win. You can tell that he wants to win every single game he plays.

As we approach the end of April, this winning attitude can hopefully further resonate with the players. The Mets have a big road series in Philadelphia this weekend, so gutting out these gritty wins will be crucial.

This may be a tad premature, but get those pens out and start writing “Daniel Murphy” on the bottom of your All-Star ballot. Current Colorado Rockie, Brad Emaus, represents the Mets at second base on the ballot, so Murphy will have to be a write-in.

In other news, congratulations to Brooklyn-boy, Pedro Beato, for picking up his first Major League win. Also, the Jason Bay winning streak extends to six. Let’s not forget that he started off the ninth inning rally with a single up the middle.

Keep up the exciting play, Mets, and Citi Field will be packed for the next homestand.

Follow me on Twitter @JMMancari.

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Can the Mets please throw some strikes?

April 14, 2011 Leave a comment

On the whole, baseball is a simple game. The pitcher takes the ball and throws it over the plate, while the batter either watches it go by, puts the ball in play or swings and misses.

Pretty simple, right?

Well, our beloved Mets have of course found a way to skew the most basic facet of the game: throwing strikes.

Both the Mets’ starters and relievers have struggled with walks in the early going, which has definitely played a factor in the early season losses. The Mets were in most of their games until they were burned by the walk.

On Opening Day right before John Buck hit that morale-crushing grand slam, Mike Pelfrey walked two hitters.

After the Mets overcame a seven-run deficit in Philadelphia last week, Blaine Boyer had a huge walk in the bottom of the fifth which allowed the Phillies to tack on an insurance run.

Last night, Jon Niese walked Seth Smith with one out that later set up early NL-MVP candidate Troy Tulowitzki’s three-run homer.

Let me start this off by saying that walks are undoubtedly going to happen. Though pitchers are paid to throw strikes, they sometimes try to get too fancy in spotting their pitches and miss the strikezone.

I can live with a starting pitcher doing this, since he is likely to see each hitter at least 2-3 times per start.

However, we need our relievers to throw strikes. In tight games, walks kill a team, especially walks that lead off an inning. The opposing team can then sacrifice the runner over and then has two chances to drive in the run.

The Mets have a putrid 4.83 bullpen ERA (25th in the league). Even worse, they are second only to the LA Angels with 21 bullpen walks.

The Mets have only played 11 games, so that’s almost two bullpen walks per game, which is unacceptable.

Granted, the Mets bullpen ERA has been ballooned by Boyer’s eight earned runs in just 6.2 innings of work. Luckily, Jason Isringhausen replaced Boyer, and may be able to provide some stability in the pen.

Tim Byrdak and Taylor Buchholz have also struggled with walks. Byrdak has two walks in 4.0 innings, which has played a role in his 9.00 ERA. Buchholz takes the cake, however, with five walks in just 6.2 innings.

Bobby Parnell hasn’t been great throwing strikes either, with three walks in 4.1 innings.

Let’s all just take a deep breath.

One thing the Mets have shown this year is a little bit of fight. They’ve shown they can come back in games (at least to some degree).

However, the team’s efforts are squandered when the bullpen cannot hold the lead. We need guys in the pen that can come in, throw strikes and give the Mets’ bats a chance to either continue their comeback or tack of some insurance runs.

I wonder how patient the Mets will be if the bullpen keeps up these walks. I’m sure there are relievers in the Mets’ system that can throw strikes.

If necessary, bring up the “Boof.”

Follow me on Twitter @JMMancari.

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Mets playing with renewed energy and passion

April 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Energy and passion.

While these two attributes have been lacking from New York Mets baseball for the past few years, the team has shown a year’s worth in just four games.

After the ugly Opening Day loss, the team has responded in a big way. That first game was the type of loss that can bury a team right out of the gate, but the Mets found a way to win the next three, albeit in peculiar fashion on Saturday.

What’s more special is that they started on the road in two stadiums where they are known to struggle: Sun Life Stadium in Miami and Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

The Mets didn’t win their first road series last year until mid June when the swept the Baltimore Orioles.

If the Mets can win just one of the next two games (preferably both but they have a better shot tonight against Joe Blanton than tomorrow against Roy Halladay), this first road trip would be everything a Mets fan could ask for.

The team has been stealing bases, taking the extra base on hits and hitting well with runners in scoring position. For example, during last night’s six-run rally in the top of the third inning, the Mets didn’t even have an extra base hit. They instead put together six singles (two by starting pitcher Chris Young which set a news Mets record) and two walks.

The Mets have had success against Cole Hamels, and it was great to see them knock him out early. The hype in Philadelphia may be all about the “four aces” this season, but until they each pitch like an ace, they’re just a regular staff.

Jose Reyes, Angel Pagan and David Wright all seem rejuvenated so far. They must continue to lead by example and create things for the middle of the order.

Though Carlos Beltran is off to a slow start, the players around him are picking up the slack. You have to remember, he played just three games in spring training, so he’s still getting a feel for right field and at the plate.

Terry Collins could possibly consider moving Beltran down in the order to take some of the pressure off him. Ike Davis is off to a hot start and can hit fourth, so Beltran can slide into the fifth or sixth hole (when Jason Bay returns).

While the Mets have only played four games, all of a sudden some of the doubters this season have begun opening their eyes. They may still believe the Mets are destined for a fourth or even fifth-place finish, but they must agree that this energetic play has surprised them.

The diehards, myself included, knew this team could play like this all along. In fact, since the Mets roster may not rival that of the Phillies or Braves, this is the way the Mets will have to play each night to put up wins.

The team seems to be buying into Terry Collins’ philosophy as well.

“One game at a time.”

The New Jersey Devils used this phrase as their motto the last two months as they made a playoff push after a terrible start to their NHL season. While the Devils will come up short of the playoffs, they went on a streak unmatched by any team this year and have now set the bar high for next year.

The Mets can learn something from the Devils: A late season streak is useless if your team is already too far out of contention.

The goal for the Mets will be to take “one game at a time,” and see where it takes them.

Win or lose, all I know is Mets baseball is exciting once again.

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