With just under two weeks left in the 2016 regular season, the New York Mets are making their final push to position themselves as the top Wild Card seed, giving them home field advantage for the one-game playoff.
After a sweep over the weekend of the Minnesota Twins, and the San Francisco Giants splitting their four-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals, the Mets have a one-game lead over the Giants for the first wild card spot. The Mets continue to face a light schedule to end their season, facing the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, and Miami Marlins.
The Mets went 4-2 for the week of September 12-18 against the Washington Nationals and the Twins, but faced grim news over the weekend about one of their aces, Jacob deGrom. He was slated to return and start the final game of the Twins series on Sunday, but had to be shut down for the rest of the season due to an injury in the ulnar nerve in his right elbow. DeGrom didn’t complain of any troubles in his Friday bullpen session, however, he did feel pain when he was shagging fly balls in the outfield soon after. He’s been out since September 1 and was looked upon to give the Mets a dynamic one-two punch along with Noah Syndergaard, just in time for the playoffs. He will need surgery and the recovery time is expected to be three months.
The team is also waiting on the return of LHP Steven Matz, who hasn’t pitched since August 14, and has been on the disabled list with a left shoulder impingement since August 22. The Mets are hoping for his return later this week, but will be monitoring his workload.
The Mets will continue to rely on their rookie pitchers along with Noah Syndergaard and the ageless Bartolo Colon to help guide them to a potential October 5 date at Citi Field with the Giants for the Wild Card.
As always, here are your MMO Players of the Week for September 12-18.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: T.J. RIVERA
T.J. Rivera earns MMO’s Player of the Week after going 9-for-20 (.450) with four runs batted in, three runs scored, two homers, one double, and one walk.
In his brief time with the big club, Rivera has displayed why he’s considered a professional hitter in the minors, hitting to all fields and striking out a low 10.9% of the time thus far. Rivera has put together some terrific at-bats as well, and had one of his breakout games last Tuesday against the Nationals. Rivera tied the game up at one in the third inning, singling to left on a 0-1 slider that scored Asdrubal Cabrera. He added another RBI in the top of the fifth, hitting a sac-fly to center field, allowing Curtis Granderson to score and give the Mets a 3-1 lead.
The Nationals tied the game up at three in the bottom of the ninth against Jeurys Familia and an error by Jose Reyes at third, sending the game into extras. After Jay Bruce grounded out, it was the Bronx product’s turn at the plate. Rivera smacked an 0-2 cutter off closer Mark Melancon into left field for a go-ahead homer, his first major league homer run. It was only the third home run given up by Melancon between the Pirates and Nationals this season.
Rivera was not known for his power while in the minors, only swatting 35 home runs in 625 career minor league games. His career high is 11, which he accomplished this season while playing for Triple A Las Vegas.
Rivera also had a huge weekend series against the Twins, including six hits, two for extra bases. Rivera hit his second career homer in Sunday’s 3-2 win in the third on a seven pitch at-bat against Kyle Gibson, his first at Citi Field.
Rivera has given the Mets a taste of what he can offer going forward, and should be afforded a chance in spring for the full-time second base job, unless the Mets decide to bring back Neil Walker on an extension or they offer and he accepts the qualifying offer in the off-season. At the very least, Rivera should be given an opportunity for the utility infielder role, similar to how Wilmer Flores was intended to be used this season.
PITCHER OF THE WEEK: NOAH SYNDERGAARD
Noah Syndergaard takes home MMO’s Pitcher of the Week, after tossing another gem against the Nationals last Tuesday, in the Mets 4-3 win in 10 innings.
The Mets needed a win after dropping the first game of the Nationals’ series on Monday night, with the Giants ahead in the wild card standings by a game and a half, and the Mets only a half game ahead of the Cardinals. Syndergaard was tasked with shutting down the Nats’ lineup, and he produced. Thor tossed seven innings of one run ball, giving up four hits, one walk, and striking out 10, his fifth multi-strikeout game of the season, and first since his June 15 start against the Pittsburgh Pirates at home.
Syndergaard’s only blemish came in the bottom of the second, when he walked Bryce Harper to start the inning. Harper stole second (Syndergaard’s 46th stolen base allowed) and later scored on Wilson Ramos‘ 23rd double of the season, giving the Nationals an early 1-0 lead. But Syndergaard settled down and worked out of early trouble in the fifth, giving up a lead-off double to Ryan Zimmerman. Syndergaard would then proceed to strikeout the side in order, fanning Danny Espinosa, Stephen Drew, and Trea Turner on 14 pitches to get out of the inning.
Syndergaard has been sensational in his sophomore season with the Mets, with a record of 13-8 with a 2.43 ERA, currently third best in the majors behind only the Chicago Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester. He’s logged a career high 174 innings to date, with 205 strikeouts to 40 walks.