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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Sometimes You See It Coming

For whatever reason, that game had loss written all over it the moment Jonathan Schoop hit Noah Syndergaard‘s worst pitch of the night over the fence. The Mets kept whacking away at the Orioles, but Syndergaard was gone (nearly 100 pitches on a soppingly hot night) and the bullpen was doing bullpen things, and you knew there were teeth out there in the darkness somewhere.

I didn’t think the fatal blow would be a 365-foot homer tucked neatly over the left-field fence by a guy who’d never hit one in the big leagues before, but that’s for the coroner to note. The Mets were beaten, and a couple of hours later so were the Rockies. You can’t complain too vociferously when losing four of five only means a game off your lead, but ouch — the Nationals in our rearview mirror are now 20% closer than they were last time we checked.

Syndergaard’s evening was an interesting one. If the Mets were scuffling along at .500 and fighting the Braves for scraps, I suspect I’d wax lyrical about bumps in the road and lessons learned by young pitchers, like I did last time but more somberly. Syndergaard struggled through the first, survived it somehow, then seemed to find some extra ticks and movement on the fastball and locate the release point on the curve. Then he was untouchable for a long stretch, with Schoop in particular looking pitiably helpless against the curve.

“Noah could throw that pitch all night,” I told my wife, “and that guy would never hit it.”

Which was true. But by “that pitch” I meant the breaking ball that darted sideways across the plate, away from a right-handed hitter, and dove out of the strike zone. Not that same breaking ball fired from the wrong release point and with no break, so it hung like an autumn moon on Schoop’s hands for a long terrible moment before becoming a souvenir.

Ouch, like I said above.

An August pennant race means there are no moral victories, no sage commentary about the future of young pitchers. There’s just a loss coupled with an enemy win, and however much profanity you need to add to that.

But let’s talk about what’s probably really worrying you. How about the fact that our bullpen has given up 13 earned runs in the last 18 1/3 innings? That’s … not good.

Here’s the key question: Is that the sign of a decent bullpen having a bad stretch, or a bad one showing its true face? In other words, is the glass half-empty or GODDAMNIT THERE’S A CRACK IN IT AND IT’S HALF-EMPTY BECAUSE THE WATER’S RUNNING OUT AND WHAT’S THE USE IF YOU NEED ME I’LL BE SULKING IN THE GARAGE. <DOOR SLAMS>

Relief pitchers, just like lineups, have stretches where all the individual pitchers can do no wrong and stretches when they can’t get out of their own way. The Mets are possibly just dealing with one of the latter periods. In which case I feel at least cautiously optimistic that they’ll come out of it — that we’ll get better things from Hansel Robles, and less scary shakiness from Jeurys Familia, and continued decency from Tyler Clippard, plus maybe Sean Gilmartin getting more responsibility and doing OK with it, and some help from new faces such as Logan Verrett and Erik Goeddel. (If you want to be mad at someone, once again, be mad at Jenrry Mejia, whose astonishing idiocy kicked over a whole line of dominoes.)

The numbers so far this year would back up that optimism — the Mets’ pen’s been pretty solid.

But on the other hand, maybe the Mets’ pen isn’t that good, and those numbers indicate we’ve seen the best of it, and the next five weeks will be a painful regression to the mean. I’ve seen that scenario too — it was called 2008, and it sucked.

Positivity, right? We’re still playing with house money, and there’s a soft schedule ahead, and an off-day tomorrow, which the Mets could use. Except, well, I just caught myself thinking that the Mets could sure use Monday’s off-day.

Buckle up. Whatever happens, it’ll make sense when it’s done.

50 comments to Sometimes You See It Coming

  • Daniel Hall

    I saw we still have Scott Rice out there in Nevada and could conveniently pick him up on the weekend to save us from certain doom.

    Is Manny Acosta still available? And what do the Snakes want for Oliver Perez? How about Miguel Batista and Elvin Ramirez?

  • open the gates

    “If you want to be mad at someone, once again, be mad at Jenrry Mejia, whose astonishing idiocy kicked over a whole line of dominoes.”

    Yep.

  • Kevin from Flushing

    One thing to remember about Mejia: he may need the PEDs to not suck. So maybe it’s a wash?

  • Dave

    Yeah, Mejia has already earned a spot among all-time Mets villians, not in the Larry Jones category but villians who were Mets. Vince Coleman, Bobby Bonilla…move over, you have company.

    I hope Logan Verrett can handle the deep end of the pool, and Hansel Robles is going to have to make sure he has his big boy pants on every night. As for Carlos Torres, he might just have, hmm, a shoulder strain. The reinforcements are not coming from outside the organization…Nats will immediately claim any reliever before the Mets can get their hands on him.

    • Daniel Hall

      The difference between Bonilla and Mejia is that Bonilla did the *smart* thing and the *Mets* were complete idiots. What had happened to Steve Phillips to come up with that ridiculous buyout? That boulder must have struck him pretty good in the head…

      • Dave

        Bonilla rightfully earned his way onto our shit list regardless of that buyout. It’s one thing to be unproductive, that happens, but he was apathetic and disinterested; he clearly just didn’t care what happened to the team or how the fans felt. I’d think he was a slug even if the Mets got him off the payroll years ago.

        As for why Phillips agreed to that, a) he was probably instructed what to do by ownership who didn’t want to pay out a big chunk of money at the time, and b) he knew he’d be long gone by the time we were all complaining about it.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Verrett will not be available out of the pen for a while if they stick with the plan of spot starting him. Apparently they want to skip Harvey this time around so Logan is starting Sunday. Unconfirmed of course, but that’s what Gary was speculating about tonight.

  • Matt in Richmond

    The bullpen as a whole has outperformed expectations to this point. A big part of that success is due to the fact that the starters lead all of baseball in innings pitched. There have been a few more short starts recently, like Thor’s tonight, that have kind of exposed the pen.

  • Gianni Privacio

    No likey the Verrett plan. Given he’s stretched out why not just use him in long relief to conserve Harvey, Syndergaard or deGrom’s innings? That way he can be brought in to finish games where any of those three log high pitch counts early. And maybe not disrupt what Verret’s got going, given we are suddenly annointing him as the cavalry. Plus give Clippard and Familia some days off. Yeesh, did I speak too soon about “recent smart moves”?

    Bigger picture a bit concerning that the assembled hopeful here find themselves, er, hopeful about him, Robles and the ever increasingly dubious Torres. Quick check of 51’s stats do imply that Rice and Alvarez have been very effective, Black not so much.

    Harumph. Nats have Papelbon and Storen. Both team have weak schedules the rest of the month. Here’s that word again…hopeful that we’re still in first come September 1 when I think we’ll get a bit of a lift from the callups.

  • Eric

    Syndergaard appears to be hitting the rumble strip towards the rookie wall. Fastball a tick down, command a tick off.

    Nonetheless, the Mets met the 4-run standard and, despite Syndergaard’s meatball to Schoop, carried a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the 7th. The bullpen couldn’t hold the lead.

    The Mets MO is close games. The added bats merely take them from -1 to +1 in the score. That means a strong bullpen is necessary. Good pitching can compensate for bad hitting, but bad relief pitching neutralizes good starting pitching.

  • Dave

    I doubt Wright will come back as an everyday player, at least not right away, but maybe adding him to the lineup will improve the offense enough that the bullpen will be working with less of a margin for error. Time now for Cespedes to make his bid for a real big contract and for Cuddyer to show that signing him was a good thing.

    • Eric

      Mattingly 2.0. Same back condition.

      Wright’s hits in rehab have all been singles. That being said, Mattingly was productive until the end of his career. Just not the HoF slugger he was at the start of it.

      I don’t mind so much if Wright’s power is gone if he can deliver OBP and good situational ‘small ball’ at bats.

  • Michael G.

    For all the furor about signing Cespedes, let’s see him show us why we need to sign him first. Apart from the fantastic outfield throw, he’s been a tad underwhelming of late.

    • Eric

      True, while Cespedes has impressed with his tools, he has yet to rip off something like a Beltran 2004 Astros hitting streak. Worth a Fulmer-level prospect? Had to make that trade. But worth a premiere FA long-term overpay to preempt the release cause? Not yet.

  • Gianni Privacio

    I think Eric is right. While it would be amusing for them to mutate offensively from 1973 to 2000 vintage in a few short weeks, we probably will not win this without righting the pen.

    Trying not to be negative but we’re also assuming Familia, who has wildly outperformed everyone’s expectations, will resume his first half dominance. There’s no history of being a successful closer for a full year to assume that he will. And will Clippard continue to throw strikes? Because beyond them things look pretty iffy.

    And this no slag on management. They brought in Blevins, Alex Torres, Gilmartin, O”Flaherty, Clippard, got Verrett back and whoever else I’m forgetting. Who could have expected the Meijia mess plus the Parnell flameout?

    Injuries happen, ask the Nats. Our team has been nothing short of heroic this year overcoming all sorts of obstacles and would love to see them in the playoffs but again wondering about last night’s bullpen moves and how many games like that they can afford to lose to seemingly odd strategy.

  • John

    Even with a 3.5 lead I don’t feel very secure. The Mets need to go on another winning steak (or win series) starting w/ Rockies. We get to face their 2 best SPs (Gray and Rusin) who held us down at Citi. The Nats have 9 games vs Brewers, Padres and Marlins. That is a recipe for a winning streak for them.

    For us to win consistently we need our big offense players (Duda and Cespedes) to start hitting. Also I like TDA but he seems to slumping a bit. The starters need to pitch into the 7th inning b/c right now we can only rely on Clip and Familia (hopefully).

    Last night was a game we could have won but let slip. We definitely need to start winning these close games as I fear that Nats have a run in them.

    And finally…TC..I think he is good as in the team plays hard for him but his in game strategy is shaky. Should have batted Kelly Johnson instead of Uribe in the 8th. That was the move to make.

  • Steven

    Nice stat but a tad (or more) misleading since 4 of those runs are Parnell’s and 2 more came from Duda pulling a Murph on what should’ve been the final out Tuesday night. Yes they all count but the bullpen has logged a ton of innings lately (extra innings, rain-shortened and pitch count-shortened starts) and has held up pretty well. I’d be very concerned if Clippard and Familia were the ones getting crushed but that’s not the case.

    The group of Robles, Verrett, Gilmartin, Goeddel, Torres, O’Flaherty, etc. is going to have good nights and bad nights. That’s why these guys are not high-leverage innings pitchers. Hopefully the bats score more runs and Collins doesn’t remove guys who retire 3 men in 6 pitches too many more times.

    • That’s a good point re Parnell and Duda’s Murph-morph. Though I get why Collins took Verrett out given the spot start coming up.

      • LA Jake

        Really? He had thrown 6 pitches. He’s not possibly starting until Sunday. That’s three days of rest. If he pitches another inning that could be 20-25 total pitches (because if he gets in trouble he’s almost certainly being pulled). Did Collins bring him in on a 6 pitch limit? Is 20-25 pitches too much for a guy pitching again four days later?

        • Dennis

          Great point Jake. I’m no expert, but innings only lasting 6 pitches shouldn’t count heavily toward whatever limit is imposed on some of these pitchers.

  • 9th string catcher

    Love this blog. I knew the O’s were winning this game – it really felt inevitable. I also agree that Cespedes is really auditioning for the big contract, if not from the Mets, from someone. He needs to come up big with runners on base, otherwise not even close to deserving the big bucks.

    It’s funny – last winter I was wondering how the Mets were going to manage all this pitching – Mejia, Familia, Parnell, Black – how was there going to be enough innings for all these guys? Where does Montero fit into all this? We’ll never see Matz this year, not a chance, and maybe we’ll see Syndergaard in September. Ha ha ha.

    “Never having enough pitching” – it’s not a myth.

    • Eric

      Hoarding pitching has been the right strategy. I understand the misgivings about trading away prospects like Fulmer and Meisner for rentals.

      Even assuming they prove themselves at the MLB level, pitchers get hurt and pitchers flame out. It’s a fine line between dominating big-league hitters and being raked by those same big-league hitters.

      For example, the Syndergaard fastball that was unhittable for much of the season is now being smacked around.

      Justin Verlander’s fall off a cliff to mediocrity at a relatively young age is a cautionary tale because the Mets’ power pitchers are Verlander types.

  • Eric

    As much as I want to stay optimistic, I’m starting to get scared about the next month and a half. While the Nationals may not be great, they have surely been under-performing. It’s like that old saying “You’re never as bad as you are during your slump, never as good as when you are streaking”

    I think they are going to start playing markedly better than they have been- At the end of the day they have a very good rotation and some real bats, plus great 8 and 9 guys (should Storen settle into his new role)

    As for our Mets, the bullpen is becoming very spotty and scary (a feeling Met’s fans certainly know all too well) and even Noah’s last few starts have not been what we’ve come to count on. This is not good when we really need to count on our 3 starters to dominate to make up for our other weaknesses. It’s also insane that he can not win a game on the road.

    Duda is an integral part of our offense and we can’t survive him being amazing for a week and then ice cold for the following 7-14 days. Although we have improved, we are still seeing a lot of failures to capitalize on runners in scoring position which needs to change so we can pick up our starters and the bullpen.

    I think we can still take the division (the card won’t be an option) but its going to be an intense/stressful end of the season. Losing 4 out of 5 games to potential playoff teams really hurts our confidence and its been a tough stretch. We really need to reach a level of (positive) consistency.

    Well anyway, Lets Go Mets!!! I know I’m venting, 28 years of being a Mets fan has left me a bit jaded but I really hope we can hang in there!!

    • Matt in Richmond

      Duda was out injured most of last week (which really hurt the lineup against Pitt) but had 2 hits and a walk in the 2 Balt games.

  • Elliot

    Put things into perspective. This is a young team playing with pure talent alone, lack of experience in the bullpen except for Clippard. So it isn’t a surprise the bullpen has been blowing leads against good teams as you can see they feel the pressure. Good teams with experience (Pirates,Orioles) will take advantage. With their soft schedule will win the division, however I dk if they have enough of experience and a strong system to beat the cubs, or cards in the playoffs.

    • Eric

      The Mets’ inexperience, Metsian inexplicable lapses, mediocre hitting that’s poor at line-moving small ball and relies too much on HRs, unreliable bullpen, skipping starts / innings limits, and Syndergaard possibly hitting his rookie wall means there’s no such thing as a soft schedule.

      The team that gave away a 7-1 lead to the Padres, nearly gave away an 8-0 lead to the Marlins, and were stymied by the below-average back end of the Pirates starting rotation can lose to anyone.

      The Nationals have a stronger roster with a softer schedule and there have been larger-than-3.5 game swings all season.

      Players who are regressing need to progress for the Mets to win. Mets regression plus Nationals regression means Nationals win. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Nationals pulled back ahead by Sept 1.

      P.S. Not the same Eric as Eric who commented on August 20th, 2015 at 11:19 am, though I agree with him.

  • Carl

    Being a Mets fan since way back when.. there is not a feeling of confidence from the team or the fan base. They have had numerous opportunities the past week. Yes, the bullpen is in a nasty funk.. but, if they could all stop swinging for the fences.. and just try to get on base, adnvace runners and score a few more runs.. they would be in much better shape. Look at all of the recent losses. They are not scoring runs late in games.

  • Steven

    Do people expect this team to win every game? They split against a tough Baltimore club. Did everybody expect a sweep? Now they need to win a series at Colorado and win a series at Philly.

    • Eric

      Holding a 3-1 lead in the 6th inning with one of the young aces, though he hasn’t looked like a young ace over his last handful of starts, and then holding a regained 4-3 lead in the 7th inning are not unreasonable expectations for a contender.

      On the other hand, Familia got away with meatballs to Machado in the 1st game, so maybe that’s just the scales balancing.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Thank you Steven. Good grief there’s an excessive amount of hand wringing going on here. I’ll use the tried and true trope of asking you to go back to the beginning of the season and ask yourself, if you were told we’d be up 3.5 games on Aug 20 would you take it? Hell yes, right? The Orioles were a red hot team and we split, losing the second game by one thin run. As bad as the Pirates series was, the first 2 games went to extras, and we were without Duda. The pen has not been great recently, but pitchers have hot and cold streaks just like hitters, and we will have reinforcements coming soon. I’ll steal the line that was used on this blog recently, I’d sure as hell rather be us than them (the Nats) right now. Cheer up folks!

    • This is very well said. But we’re Mets fans — hand-wringing is our default behavior.

      • Matt

        I totally get that, and I would never pretend to be immune to foul, pessimistic feelings about the team. I just think that right now, given everything, we’ve got ample reason to be at the very least, cautiously optimistic, maybe even a bit cocky. I was just a small kid when the Mets were tearing it up in the mid 80s, so my perceptions could be flawed, but my feeling about the fan base back then was one of raucous rowdy arrogance. I think it would be fun to see some of that come back.

    • Eric

      A hot and cold bullpen is enough to lose the division for a team that can only win the division by reaping close games.

  • eric1973

    This cockamamie innings limits thing has now already cost us a game. Verrett needed to go 2 innings last night.

    Verrett, Clippard, and Familia should have each pitched 2 innings, and then bring on the bums for the 12th inning, which would probably have never come, one way or the other. Use your best guys FIRST, especially with a day off today.

    No proof that pitch counts cause arm injuries. In fact, just the opposite, considering how many young guys need TJ.

    Let these

  • mikeL

    yes that was indeed cockamamie and maddening.
    6 pitches and letting current game be trumped for one next series?
    play the hot hand, win today and deal with innings limit tomorrow.
    (and last time around it was lefty specialist o’flaherty being left out to let the ninth and the game get away)
    i had a bad feeling with torres coming out in the ninth. robotic strategy – play for tie on the road, save closer for a lead. works if you have a solid pen. and yes when that ball cleared the fence i felt really pissed at hennry!
    boy, do i hope matz comes back strong. get him into the rotation and verett into the pen.
    i fear we will look back on the pirates series as a lost opportunity to bury the nats – and their hopes of getting some mojo back – for good. it’s gonna be a rough ride…not that i prefer trying to claw up to a distant 2nd or 3rd spot in the standings.
    and yes, cespedes needs to get hot. his frequent strikeouts have been disappointing to say the least.
    oy!

  • eric1973

    Hey, doomsayers, look on the bright side! With that 6-pitch limit, Verrett can now pitch for the next 20 years!

  • eric1973

    Welcome Back, Jake!

    TC sure lived up to his moniker last nite.

  • Mikey

    I definitely see both the feeling of joy over being able to watch our team in first place in august despite a stupid amount of injuries and bad luck. But I also have followed this team since 1970….and waiting for something bad to happen is in our dna…..not to mention we surely dont match up on paper against nats….so we have to endure lots of agita in the coming weeks and hope to hang on to this lead. And i just find myself shaking my head at some of the I game decisions. I think many of us were second guessing taking verrett out even before hansel and gretel gave up that homer to jones. And not putting kelly in against a rightly…..he did that last week too when he had 4 lefty bats on the bench and stuck with a righty….I think it was cuddyer. I just hate giving games away when you seriously never know for sure when you will contend again.

    Sheesh….that sounds more negative than I wanted it to! Lets kick some ass this weekend!

    • Eric

      Our last reference points for the Mets as contender are still 2007 and 2008, then the drop off a cliff. Until they exorcise those ghosts on the day the magic number clicks down to 0 and they clinch the division, 2007 and 2008 will haunt us.

  • eric1973

    Agreed. The Nats are probably more talented, so TC and the Mets have to win games they would otherwise lose, and just as important, not lose games they would otherwise win.

    We don’t need another Matt WiLliams as manager. There are only 40 games to go, not 120, so start managing like it!

  • eric1973

    Prove to me that ‘my’ way is wrong FIRST, before you begin to sacrifice games now due to innings limits.

    If our Big 3 get knocked out of the box on the last 3 games of the season, then do it next year! Then I’d go along!

    • Eric

      I felt sure the Nationals would at least tie the game when Harper singled on Axford’s 1st pitch.

      The Mets should have a bigger lead than they do. On the other hand, they’ve lost 4 of their last 5 games yet only dropped a .5 game of their lead in the standings in that span.

      • LA Jake

        Before the trip I said they need to win 1 of 2 in Baltimore (done), 2 of 3 in Colorado and 3 of 4 in Philly and they’ll be back home with a decent margin. What they can’t afford is to go 1-6, 2-5 or frankly, even 3-4.

        Of course, skipping Harvey means it’s a little tougher but this team is good enough to win most games against bad teams (which is why they are in the position they are in). They are 23-34 against teams with .500 or better records, but 41-22 against under .500 teams.

        • Dennis

          That’s what I was thinking as well….6-3 with a minimum 5-4 road trip. It’s a shame they couldn’t take advantage of the Nats losing as well recently, but at least they are now 4 up in the loss column.

  • eric1973

    I still can’t get over that 6-pitch thing with Verrett.

    And they are still unsure whether he starts over the weekend?

    I thought that was the whole point of taking him out!

    As Keith would say, ‘MY WORD!!’

  • Mikey

    did you guys notice last weekend when the Pittsburgh starter (I think it was Happ) was cruising along and then gave up like a walk and a hit in the 6th and Hurdle yanked him…brought in Hughes who slammed the door that inning? that’s why Hurdle is a great manager IMO, he has that sixth sense of knowing trouble is coming (or when to leave someone in), his players are in great defensive position most of the time and he knows what batters struggle against, say, Joe Blanton and plays those matchups. He is the anti-Matt Williams or TC. just an observation.

  • […] been with him practically every night since he was admitted, which was in the hours following that horrible loss in Baltimore. At least I assume it was a horrible loss. I was preoccupied with a coughing, consternated […]

  • Paul Schwartz

    It’s amazing (in retrospect) -to see how often some commenters are wrong and others are right. If only our bullpen could be as consistent.