And That Happened: Tuesday's Scores and Highlights


Rockies 12, Cardinals 9: Seth Smith, after the biggest ninth inning comeback in living memory: “Baseball’s crazy, even stupid sometimes . . . I don’t even know what just happened . . . You go from, ‘Let’s not give any at-bats away,’ to ‘Good try,’ to ‘Oh,
wait, we can do this.'”  That kind of surprise and references to freakish, dumb luck was pretty much the order of the day in the clubhouse after the game from both teams. Except Dexter Fowler who, when asked, said that the ninth inning was about “pride.”  Pride?  The problem, Dexter, is if you explain the extraordinary in terms of something you’re capable of simply doing based on will alone, some may ask you why you don’t do it all the time.  Sure, there was pride, but there were also two-dozen other wacky and out-of-your-control occurrences which led to this improbable result.  Don’t give me “pride.”  Own the glorious chaos of it all.

Braves 6, Phillies 3: Matt Diaz hit a tiebreaking double in the 11th inning, and Eric Hinske added
a two-run homer. Cole Hamels pitched well for Philly, but his teammates managed only three hits.  They’ve been boning him like that for his last several starts, actually.

Rays 3, Red Sox 2: Jeff Niemann held the Sox to four hits and an unearned run.  I love the narrative about a bunch of no-names like Eric Patterson and Daniel Nava helping the Sox to a magical resurgence as much as the next guy, but at some point it’s a lot nicer to simply have your big stars healthy and playing, ya know?

Nationals 6, Pirates Padres 5: Ryan Zimmerman hit two bombs.  I’m guessing Joey Votto still wins the silly Internet vote for the last All-Star slot, but that’s some pretty good late campaigning for Zim, no? Game time temperature was 99 degrees.  If my San Diego-living brother is any guide to what people from that town do whenever the weather isn’t a nice, breezy low-humidity 78, the Padres probably wilted and complained and then asked to borrow money from me. Wait, strike that last one, as it’s specific to my brother.

Twins 7, Blue Jays 6: Homers from Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel. Delmon Young went 3 for 3 with an RBI and scored the winning run. Twelfth loss in 15 games for the Jays.

Mets 3, Reds 0: No, he’s not in his prime anymore, but it’s nice to see some vintage Johan Santana once in a while (CG, SHO 3 H).

Tigers 7, Orioles 5: Nice night for Johnny Damon: he got his 2,500th career hit and had a walkoff homer in the
11th. “The ball from my 2,500th hit is going in the trophy case, but No. 2,501
is the one I’m going to remember for a long time.”  I don’t know why I laughed at the idea that Johnny Damon has a trophy case, because he’s an accomplished player who probably has a ton of hardware going back to his little league days. But I just immediately got this image of a bunch of random hilarious things like plaques for judging swimsuit competitions and stuff.

Astros 6, Pirates 2: Wandy Rodriguez strikes out ten Bucs and Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman went yard. This kind of scene is what more or less formed the basis of Ed Wade’s delusions of competitiveness this past offseason.

Rangers 12, Indians 1: Everything in this game was overshadowed by that fan falling from the upper deck. He’s supposedly OK, but given that a spectator died a month after falling out of the stands in Miller Park earlier this year, I’ll wait until the guy in Texas is discharged from the hospital to exhale. As for the game, Josh Hamilton and Vlad Guerrero led the assault. But please, Mr. AP writer: no one cares that Josh Hamilton has a “home hitting streak” of 26 games. Hitting streaks matter. Home and road hitting streaks are silly things to track.

Giants 6, Brewers 1: Madison Bumgarner pitched eight shutout innings to get his first win as a major leaguer. Then his teammates gave him a beer shower despite the fact that he’s only 20.  17 Giants players were arrested to contributing to the delinquency of a minor and Bumgarner was released into the custody of his parents.

White Sox 4, Angels 1: The win, she is nice, but losing Jake Peavy to a back injury — latissimus dorsi is the word on the street — is not good. Peavy had been pretty solid over his last several starts and was one of the many reasons the Sox had gone on the run they’re on.

Cubs 6, Diamondbacks 4: Aramis Ramirez supposedly hurt his hand again the other day, but either that was overstated or else the Diamondbacks were throwing beach balls at him. Two homers for A-Ram, which is a nickname I’m never, ever going to use again for him. Carlos Silva has nine wins before the All-Star Break. I’m not sure if that stat or the fact that Vernon Wells is an All-Star would have elicited greater belly laughs from me if I had been informed of it back in April.

Yankees 6, Athletics 1: Grand slam in the third inning and a solo shot in the sixth for A-Rod.  A-Rod after the game: “I like RBIs because that helps the team win.”  Franklly, I liked it much better when he said egotistical inane things. This seemingly selfless inanity just doesn’t suit him.

Dodgers 7, Marlins 3: Fourth homer in six games for Matt Kemp. Is it possible that, more than the attitude adjustment, Kemp simply needed a couple of days off to rest?  Because since he was benched by Joe Torre last week he’s been on a tear.

Royals 3, Mariners 2: Zach Greinke shuts down the M’s. A fan interference call in the eighth inning may have changed the outcome of the game, though.  Russell Branyan hit a double down the line with Ichiro on first base.  A kid reached out and touched it, though, meaning Ichiro had to stop at third when he would have otherwise scored, trying the game. Jose Lopez then grounded out for out number three.  God, I hate fans. Wouldn’t baseball be better without them?

2018 Preview: New York Mets

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2018 season. Next up: The New York Mets.

Things couldn’t have gone much worse for the Mets in 2017, so the fact that they won 70 games is actually remarkable. Their hailed rotation was a shambles, as Noah Syndergaard made only seven starts. Zack Wheeler put up a 5.21 ERA over 17 starts; Matt Harvey was even worse with a 6.70 ERA across 18 starts and one relief appearance. Steven Matz compiled a 6.08 ERA in 13 starts. Just about the only consistency the club had came from Jacob deGrom, who finished with a career-high 3.53 ERA in 31 starts.

The rotation, as of right now, is healthy, save for deGrom, who has been battling a minor back issue during this spring. But so far, so good for everyone else. Well, there was Jason Vargas, who signed a two-year, $16 million deal with the Mets last month and suffered a non-displaced fracture of the hamate bone in his non-throwing hand. He underwent surgery and is expected to return shortly after the start of the regular season. But I mean, at least they still have everyone else!

Well, Michael Conforto is still recovering from shoulder surgery last September. The Mets are targeting May 1 for his return. That’s everyone, right? Wright? Where’s David Wright? The third baseman underwent two surgeries in September and October last year for his shoulder and back and still isn’t feeling well enough to play baseball, so the Mets shut him down for eight weeks.

The Mets haven’t had a legitimate full-time third baseman since 2014, Wright’s last full season. No Mets third baseman has played more than 55 games in a season at third base in the last three seasons. So the club went out and signed Todd Frazier to a two-year, $17 million contract. Frazier split last season with the White Sox and Yankees, hitting a combined .213/.344/.428 with 27 home runs and 76 RBI. While Frazier is now 32 years old and has seen a decline in power, he did set a career-high in walk rate last year at 14.4 percent and he’s still a solid defender. Frazier is still more than a capable player and he’ll look like a Greek god at the hot corner compared to what the Mets have trotted out there lately.

Shortstop at Citi Field now belongs to 22-year-old Amed Rosario. Among the top prospects in baseball, Rosario struggled last year, batting .248/.271/.394 across 46 games. Rosario has the most upside of any position player on the Mets’ roster, so his success will play a rather large factor in the team’s success this year. He can be a doubles and triples machine and a big threat on the bases if he gets his feet underneath him against big league competition.

Asdrubal Cabrera will handle second base. He’s been, quietly, quite good for the Mets over the last two seasons, offering a solid offensive approach along with his versatility – he played second and third base as well as shortstop last season. Now 32 years old, Cabrera hit .280/.351/.434 with 14 home runs and 59 RBI last season, which is more than enough when manning a position in the middle of the infield.

At first base, the Mets were able to pluck Adrian Gonzalez off the free agent wire. Gonzalez had gone to the Braves in the Matt Kemp trade, but the Braves quickly dropped him. The 35-year-old had a nightmarish 2017, compiling a .642 OPS in 71 games as he was bothered by back issues throughout the year. He became overshadowed in Los Angeles by Cody Bellinger, who won the NL Rookie of the Year Award, so the Dodgers had no reason to keep him around. Dominic Smith had been another first base option but he suffered a quad injury early in spring training and likely won’t be ready by Opening Day.

Travis d’Arnaud will get the lion’s share of starts behind the plate, backed up by Kevin Plawecki. d’Arnaud provides power, which is always nice to have from a catcher, but he doesn’t hit for average or draw walks, so his batting average and on-base percentage are underwhelming. And while d’Arnaud hasn’t been anything to write home about stopping the running game, he’s regarded as a good pitch framer.

In left field will stand the Mets’ biggest offensive threat, Yoenis Cespedes. Sadly, the slugger was limited to 81 games last year as he battled various leg injuries. When he was in the lineup, he hit .292/.352/.540 with 17 home runs and 42 RBI in 321 plate appearances. Among hitters who have taken at least 1,000 plate appearances since the start of the 2015 season, only 21 have put up a higher weighted on-base average than Cespedes (.368), who finds himself just ahead of Carlos Correa and just behind Corey Seager on that list.

Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo will share center field for the time being. Nimmo is having a big spring, putting up a .283/.361/.585 line with eight extra-base hits and 10 RBI in 61 spring plate appearances. He’s likely to bat leadoff against right-handed starters. Lagares isn’t having nearly as good a spring (.483 OPS) but will be in the lineup against lefties and will provide value with his Gold Glove-caliber defense. It’s also quite possible the Mets will trade him as they have gotten some interest lately.

Jay Bruce returns to right field after inking a three-year, $39 million contract in January. The slugger put up a solid .254/.324/.508 line last year between the Mets and Indians with 36 home runs and 101 RBI. Though he struggled – for the most part — in his first go-around with the Mets in the second half of 2016, he’s good for at least 25 home runs and 90 RBI if he can stay healthy, which the soon-to-be 31-year-old has been able to do in recent years.

New manager Mickey Callaway says he plans to use a closer-by-committee which will include Jeurys Familia, Jerry Blevins, A.J. Ramos and Anthony Swarzak. It’s a committee that could certainly have success, but Familia and Ramos are both coming off of down years and Swarzak has been slowed in spring training by a calf injury. The Mets will also have Paul Sewald, Hansel Robles, Rafael Montero, Seth Lugo, and Robert Gsellman providing help from the ‘pen. Wheeler could as well if the Mets determine he can provide more in a relief role than in a starting role.

With all their warts, the Mets do have a competitive roster. The starting rotation has the potential to be really good, led by a now-healthy Syndergaard and followed by deGrom. The offense should be a buoy in the midst of all of the other displeasing variance the Mets will likely wade through during the season. The bullpen won’t be world-beating but will likely not be a serious source of concern given their options. FanGraphs is projecting the Mets to win 82 games while PECOTA has them at 81, which means they’ll be in the mix for the NL Wild Card. That sounds about right to me, but ultimately I think they’ll fall just a bit short of .500.

Prediction: 79-83, third place in NL East.