Mancuso: Maybe Next Labor Day Mets will be Special

Rafael Montero was not supposed to be this good in early September and the Mets were meant to be playing meaningful baseball on Labor Day. But, as they say, baseball is that unique game and things happen for a reason. Monday afternoon at Citi Field, Montero continued to show that it has turned around and this young Mets lineup knows what they have to do.

Montero had another good outing and the youngsters continued to audition for next year in the Mets 11-7 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. And the Phillies, with the second worst record in the National League, are also going through that rebuilding phase so this was another game where Montero could get it right and the youngsters could make their cause for next year.

The lineup is different and so are the Mets as they continue to play out the string and build for next year. And much of that has to do with Montero who had a career high scoreless streak end. Manager Terry Collins knows about patience and ability with the youngsters but this is not what he and Mets fans envisioned.

Auditions of a sort and Montero showing his true potential were not in the plan for 2017. Instead the Mets are playing for pride and Collins will continue to fight for wins even if this does become his last month in the dugout.

Montero ended 12.1 innings of scoreless ball in the fifth inning.The Mets gave the 26-year old a 10-0 lead due to a six-run fourth inning.  The inning was highlighted with five hits, 11 coming to bat and the production coming from those in the lineup who are getting their opportunity to possibly be a part of this rebuilding stage.

And there is Kevin Plawecki, a revived and new catcher behind the plate who handled Montero with the effective changeup and secondary pitches.  Plawecki, if he also keeps up this good pace at the plate, could find himself in position as the leading catcher.

“It’s good to see the results,” he said after going 2-for-4 with a walk and scoring two runs. And the other factor, Plawecki is one of those youngsters who returned from Triple-A Las Vegas and has shown the accuracy of throwing out runners going to second.

This is what to expect the last four weeks. Getting the  results will enable a manager and organization to have a better picture to fill in needs in what is expected to be a busy offseason for the Mets.

Plawecki says he feels good at the plate and Montero is throwing strikes. Collins informed his starter that in order to stay at the big league level there has to be that need to throw strikes. So whatever message was relayed to Montero was carried along the way from Las Vegas and back to New York.

Montero is an improved pitcher and in his last four starts, there have been 5.0 innings tossed. He allowed three runs or less and the secondary pitches, the changeup in particular, does not resemble the pitcher who could not find the strike zone in his previous starts.

“The sinker and changeup have given me good results,” Montero said through an interpreter. “I will continue to do my job and work hard. I have no control over that,” he said about how he stands with a starting role next season.

Next season could be special on the mound for Montero. If Matt Harvey is still around and healthy along with Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, and Zach Wheeler, there could be meaningful games in September. But we all know that all depends on how healthy they will be and in a year of everything that has gone wrong, of course there will be skepticism.

Last week at Great American Ballpark, against the Reds in Cincinnati, Montero had the best outing of his career when he tossed a career high 8.1 innings in a Mets 2-0 win. So the struggles for Rafael Montero to prove that he belongs with the Mets may be over for the moment and if the consistency continues, he can only get better.

He had command against the Phillies, a team that previously scored 16 earned runs in 15 innings against him. Perhaps, and later than expected, this is the Rafael Montero that was always supposed to be one of those valued and young arms in the Mets starting rotation.

And in this month of September there will be more analyzing and planning for the next year. You can do this when games are meaningless and it does provide some hope for a Mets team that needs a lot of that.

 All of the auditions and planning, on a day when the Mets announced that David Wright will undergo surgery to repair his right rotator cuff.

The future for Wright appears to be one more shot and then make a decision.  The future of Michael Conforto, still in the plan but it will be a long recovery after surgery to repair a tear in the posterior capsule of his left shoulder.

“We need to finish strong,” Jose Reyes said after another good day at the plate. And Reyes could still be around for another year to see Montero continue with this progression.  As long as Reyes gets playing time and stays consistent there will be a plan for him.

But it’s about Rafael Montero, even Juan Lagares with his gold glove in the outfield, Brandon Nimmo in the lineup and getting an opportunity to show he could be in the plan as a starter, or off the bench,

“I’m never going up there to walk,” said Nimmo. “That’s just a by product.” Nimmo matched a career high with three hits and was big part of that Mets fourth inning that helped Montero with a nice lead.

The right attitude in September as the Mets finish up the string.  But also good to know there is competition because of a desire to be part of this restructuring and the manager will always say no matter what, it’s about winning ballgames.

And winning ballgames is what the Mets plan to do more next year but it depends on staying healthy, and that is known more with this medical ward of Mets in 2017.  It is also filling in the gaps.

Labor Day next year and maybe there will be meaningful games at Citi Field.  

Comment Rich Mancuso: [email protected]  Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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