The Mets are in the jackpot
A first place team... and an iconic anniversary
On a day the Mets announced Noah Syndergaard will be shut down for six weeks with elbow inflammation, they swept a doubleheader against the Rockies, somehow extending their first place lead to 2.5 games over Philadelphia and Atlanta.
Just keep winning! That’s the motto for this rag-tag group of back-ups and struggling stars who have found a way to remain competitive thanks to exceptional pitching from both their starters and reliever corps.
We will recap both of yesterday’s wins, discuss the Thor news, and celebrate the 5-year anniversary of an iconic moment in Mets history (the Terry Collins “ass in the jackpot” outburst) from someone who lived it (then-third baseman Ty Kelly). But first, let’s recap yesterday’s action.
GAME 1 RECAP
⚾️ IN SHORT: Marcus Stroman pitched six shutout innings, Edwin Díaz earned his ninth consecutive save, and a José Peraza home run was all the Mets needed to defeat the Rockies 1-0 in the opening game of the doubleheader. It was the Mets’ first 1-0 win since Opening Day of last year. [Box Score]
🔑 KEY MOMENT: Peraza’s home run was obviously the most important hit of the game, but the Mets were able to come away with the victory due to lights out pitching from Stroman and Díaz, along with excellent defense. This play by Francisco Lindor reminds fans why he is a superstar, even when he’s not showing it at the plate.
❶ RELIABLE: Where would the Mets be without Marcus Stroman? We’re almost afraid to write about it in case we jinx it. In fact, let’s assume you know why the sinker-baller has been so important to this beat-up rotation. And yesterday was no exception. Taking advantage of the seven-inning game (thanks to it being a doubleheader), the right-hander tossed 90 pitches in breezing through six innings, before handing the ball over to the closer. Stroman surrendered only three hits and two walks, while keeping the Rockies from reaching third base. It was the fourth time this season he didn’t allow an extra base hit (while pitching at least five innings), which is tied for second most in the majors.
❷ CURTAINS: Perhaps the baseball gods are giving us a break with Edwin Díaz. While his numbers looked great last season, many Mets fans still haven’t learned to trust him. In a season full of injuries and reminders of trades gone wrong with the promotion of Jarred Kelenic in Seattle (as if the Mets couldn’t use an extra outfielder), the last thing Mets fans needed was an off year from Díaz. It has been anything but that, so far. He is now a perfect 9-for-9 in save opportunities, with 14 strikeouts, two walks, and zero earned runs allowed in those outings, and has converted 13 saves in a row dating back to last season.
GAME 2 RECAP
⚾️ IN SHORT: José Peraza knocked in the game-winning run again, Joey Lucchesi has finally found a bit of a groove, and the Mets’ bullpen continues to dominate, resulting in a 4-2 win and doubleheader sweep of the Rockies. [Box Score]
🔑 KEY MOMENT: Since we passed on Peraza’s game-winning home run in the Game 1 recap, we have to show him some love in this one. His RBI single in the fourth inning to plate newest Met Billy McKinney (who looked good in right-field) gave the Mets a 2-1 lead they would never relinquish.
❶ PERAZA: Talk about having a day. Playing both games of the twin-bill, Peraza went 2-4 with a walk, and proved to be the difference maker in both wins. His solo shot in Game 1 was the only run the Mets needed. And he added two more RBIs in the second game, the first highlighted above, and the second to give the Mets a 3-1 lead on a bases loaded walk in the sixth inning. It’s the unsung heroes like Peraza who are somehow keeping the Mets above water while over half of their ideal active roster is on the injured list.
❷ LUCCHESI: We have taken up plenty of space writing about why Lucchesi isn’t ideal in a starter role. But acting as a bullpen starter — someone you only expect to throw 3-4 innings with a rested relief group behind him — is a safe space for him to operate. While he wasn’t as effective as he was in Miami last week, he once again pitched into the fourth inning, striking out two, walking three, and allowing only one earned run.
⏭ NEXT UP: It’s New York vs Atlanta this weekend, as the Knicks continue their playoff series against the Hawks down south, while the Braves visit Citi Field to take on the Mets. The Braves had an off day on Thursday after splitting a two-game set in Boston against the Red Sox. At 24-25, they are 2.5 back of the Mets.
⛑ LIMPING: Like the Amazins, the Braves are battling injuries (although nobody is battling injuries quite like the Mets). Earlier this week, slugger Marcell Ozuna was lost for at least six weeks after fracturing his middle and ring fingers. Atlanta is already without former Met Travis d’Arnaud (thumb surgery) and starter Mike Soroka (Achilles’ tendon surgery / shoulder discomfort), to name a few more.
😄 GOOD NEWS: Finally, some good news on the injury front. Taijuan Walker returns to the mound tonight after spending time on the IL due to side tightness. He will face-off against right-hander Ian Anderson, who is 4-1 with a 2.82 ERA.
🤦 UNBELIEVABLE: Just when you thought the injury news couldn’t get any worse, we find out Noah Syndergaard will be shut down for six weeks with elbow inflammation. You know it’s not good when manager Luis Rojas says, “We pray that he can pitch for us this year.”
THE GOOD NEWS? There was no structural damage detected in Thor’s surgically-repaired elbow. A club source told the NY Post the Mets “dodged a bullet.”
TIMELINE: Being shut down for six weeks means Syndergaard won’t start throwing again until mid-July, which would make it probably August before he could think about a rehab start, assuming all else goes well. Praying he pitches at all this season is probably the right mindset.
FUTURE: Obviously, this clouds the right-hander’s future with the Mets. Is it possible he never pitches for them again? The 28-year-old is set to hit the open market next winter. He could come back on a qualifying offer, or accept a one-year, prove-he-is-healthy deal. We will consider all of this in much more detail in a future deep dive.
The Day My Ass Was in the Jackpot
by Ty Kelly, Mets Fix’s “Former Met” Correspondent
Today we find ourselves on a very special anniversary in the history of the New York Mets: five years ago, an emotionally-impactful, yet seemingly-nonsensical exchange took place between manager Terry Collins and umpire Tom Hallion that made baseball fans everywhere ask the question: What is an “ass in the jackpot?”
Is it a bad thing? For those who may not recall, Terry argued about Noah Syndergaard getting ejected for allegedly throwing at Chase Utley, and Hallion defended the decision by screaming, “our ass is in the jackpot!” But what is a “jackpot” in this context? Is it a metaphor or a colloquialism, or could it even be good?
As the quietest member of that viral video -- the Mets third baseman who was standing on the mound when it went down -- I’d like to break my silence, provide some context and confess the things I couldn’t say that fateful day.
I arrived in the Mets organization in November of 2015, just weeks after they’d lost to the Royals in the World Series — having just overcome the tragic injury of their shortstop Ruben Tejada from a dangerously-late Utley slide. I hadn’t played much shortstop at that point in my career, but figured I could reasonably fill in for Ruben if necessary.
I walked into the Mets’ Spring Training clubhouse, which was filled with anger and excitement — ready to get revenge on any and everyone who got in their way the year before. The team was tremendously confident in its seemingly-unstoppable starting rotation and returning stars like Michael Conforto, Yoenis Céspedes, and of course the Captain, David Wright. There was no reason we could not make a repeat appearance in the World Series. Also, I was now on the team, and though I had yet to play in the Majors, I was confident in my ability to be a jack-of-all-trades back-up in the infield or outfield.
I finally got called up on May 23, 2016, five days before the fateful moment. I was in my 8th professional season and had played in 855 games. After being in the Minors that long, I was — needless to say — relieved, ecstatic, emotional, and broke. I was finally getting my shot to prove to myself, my family, my friends, and Mets fans that I could perform at the highest level (and certainly not only be needed to translate a folksy, possibly-made-up phrase five years later).
I was told Lucas Duda would be going on the Injured List, so I’d likely be moving around the infield and possibly playing some first base. It would be tough to replace his power but I would do my best. My first game was at third, though — a quick fill-in for David Wright as his body was sore from hitting a homer and carrying us to victory the night before. I went 0-4 with 3 strikeouts my first game, but it was okay because David was able to come back the next two games and homer in each.
The second of those was against the Dodgers, the first time Utley had come back to Citi Field since breaking Ruben’s leg. The crowd wanted blood, but instead got a base-clearing, game-tying double in the top of the 9th inning from Utley. Luckily, Curtis Granderson hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 9th.
When I got to the field the next day, I was informed that David needed to be scratched and I’d be starting at third. This was not good. Rumors floated around the clubhouse about his health and how serious a spine or neck injury actually might be. While I was happy to get some extra playing time, I’d planned on filling in for Tejada and Duda, not taking over for the most beloved Met of the last decade.
All the 42,227 rage-filled Mets fans who came to Citi Field that day expected to see the Captain manning the left side of the infield. They expected to see the Captain sprint in and tackle Utley if he dared step on the field. Instead, they saw me sheepishly saunter out to third base with big zeroes next to my name in every offensive category except for strikeouts.
In the third inning, Utley finally stepped to the plate. The booing from the crowd was easily the loudest noise I’d ever heard. Our fireballer Syndergaard just happened to be on the mound that day, and on his first pitch, threw a fastball to Utley that felt closer to the first base dugout than to Utley’s ribs. He was immediately ejected from the game, and I saw my short MLB career flash before my eyes.
I realized that I was going to have to meekly meander to the mound and involve myself in a conversation I had no business being in. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Tom Hallion said “our ass is in the jackpot” to our players and no one thought to ask him if he had misspoken or if his head was feeling alright. Terry, meanwhile, was letting out the collective Mets’ rage on each umpire, causing Tom to leave the mound to try “ass in the jackpot” on him. I asked Neil Walker if Noah’s wild pitch was on purpose. His response was more to the point of “if you’re gonna do it, you better hit him.”
Logan Verrett came in the game for some seriously long relief to try and salvage the rest of the game. And, as he reminded me just a few days ago on our current team (we’re reunited), he proceeded to strike Utley out and get the loudest cheer of his career.
Here’s the crazy part about all this: I didn’t find out about Terry’s epic rant or Tom’s questionably-colloquial response until the video was leaked two years later. People often ask what I was thinking while it was happening, and my answer always feels inadequate because I didn’t get to hear any of it in person.
Believe it or not: I found out about it along with everyone else. And it immediately brought me back to the feeling of immense doubt in my ability to measure up in any way to the bar David Wright set, and the ability of our team to overcome all the crucial injuries we were incurring. But, getting to watch it along with the rest of the world, I was able to remove myself from where I was at in that moment and see the pride TC had for his team and the city, as well as the love he had for his players.
Nothing was going to heal Ruben’s leg or match the pain and anger that had been caused, but TC and Mets fans everywhere only hoped for a little closure. There was a desperation in his voice that I think tells you everything you need to know. He just wanted a chance to let his players move on, and to be able to tell Ruben, “We’ve got you — we’ll stick up for you.” He just wanted his players to know “everything is fine, we’re in the jackpot now. Or no — they’re in the jackpot? Either way, someone is in the jackpot and we’ll stick together as a team whether it’s good, bad, or not an actual thing.”
⚾️ Yadier Molina hit a go-ahead RBI double in the 10th to put the Cardinals ahead for good, beating the Diamondbacks 5-4. St. Louis is 28-22 and a half game up on the Cubs for the NL Central lead.
⚾️ Shohei Ohtani was a late scratch from a start last night because of a traffic jam in Oakland. First the team bus and then public transit couldn’t get Ohtani to the Coliseum in time. The Angels lost 5-0 to the A’s. Ohtani will pitch tonight.
⚾️ Shane Bieber took a no-hit bid into the 7th, striking out 12. Cleveland beat the Tigers 5-2.
🔗 Just how long are we supposed to wait on Francisco Lindor?, by Deesha Thosar, NY Daily News: “The time for Lindor to lift his injured team is now. The time for Lindor to win over a fan base whose boos have only gotten louder is now. The time for Lindor to show the Mets they can count on him for the next decade is now. Baseball may be built with eyes on the long run, but part of being the $340-million-dollar-man means shouldering the expectations, every day, especially during the rough stretches. Fans are right to expect as much, and they’re still waiting.”
🔗 There's no guarantee Noah Syndergaard will pitch for the Mets this season, by David Lennon, Newsday: “By comparison, two pitchers that had Tommy John surgery around the same time as Syndergaard last year — the Yankees’ Luis Severino and Red Sox’s Chris Sale — have moved more slowly in their recoveries. Severino’s operation was a month earlier than Syndergaard’s and he has yet to make a rehab start. Sale had his surgery three days after Syndergaard and is only up to multiple bullpen sessions each week.”
🔗 Mets' starters ready to 'carry the load', by Anthony DiComo, MLB.com: “Mets pitchers will face a stiffer test this weekend, when the potent Braves come into town with eyes on wresting back first place. But the Mets will get Walker back from the injured list on Friday, and they have deGrom scheduled to pitch on Sunday night.”
And … we share this captivating video that has every Little League coach in America yelling in unison: “JUST STEP ON FIRST. TWO OUTS. STEP ON FIRST BASE” …
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