Category: baseball

All the Healing We Need is Taking Place in Williamsport

ROBBINS NEST

credit twitter

By Lenn Robbins

This is what unfettered, 12-year-old joy looks like. These are the jerseys that humanity wears. This is where a ball and a bat and a glove meld into a glorious amalgam of inclusion and respect and compassion.

The Little League World Series has come at the perfect time for a world wound tight in anxiety and fear and hate.

From mass shootings, to trade wars, to tensions on the Korean Peninsula and Kashmir, to protests in Hong Kong, to leaders that lead only themselves – every morning dawns in doubt.

Except in Williamsport.

In Williamsport, the world’s best 12-year-old baseball players from Mexico to Elizabeth, N.J., from Chungcheong, South Korea to Coon Rapids/Andover, Minn., from Venezuela to Australia remind us why nostalgia beats in the chambers of the heart.

In Williamsport, it doesn’t matter if you have the crazy batting stance of Venezuela’s Deivis Ordonez or the cool “Jersey Shake” celebration of the Elmora Youth Little League team.

In Williamsport, you have players nicknamed ‘Chicken Little,’ yet on these beautiful summer days and nights, no kid fears a gunman bursting into their classroom.

In Williamsport, Cubs slugger Anthony Rizzo blasts a two-run homer off the scoreboard and gives the ball to Japan’s shortstop because all of the Japanese players dapped him up.

In Williamsport, it doesn’t matter that Maddy Freking has long blond hair. It matters that she can throw strikes and make the force play at home.

In Williamsport, players on the Rhode Island team honor the memory of a Kentucky player they never met. Bowling Green coach Jef Goodnight lost his 10-year-old son Mason to a rare form of bacterial meningitis in 2017.

 Before Kentucky played Rhode Island, the New England champs touched Mason’s jersey which is displayed the Great Lakes champs’ dugout.

“We’re so fortunate to be here, and we went over to his jersey and I prayed and then I gave his dad a handshake,” Lucas Tanous, 11, told ESPN. “”It’s just so sad, but we all touched his jersey because I bet he was such a nice kid.”

In Williamsport, the Venezuelan players and coaches stop their walk-off celebration to console the Dominican Republic pitcher who gave up a two-run double in the bottom of the 6th.

In Williamsport, kids aren’t glued to their smartphones. They’re watching the next game or the previous game or sliding down the hill beyond the center field on cardboard boxes, like Cubs manager Joe Madden.

In Williamsport, the only fences are in the outfield. In Williamsport, 12-year-olds from around the world, open their arms to one another, not their mouths. In Williamsport, America’s pastime brings the world together.

In Williamsport.

Maybe the Yankees Will Get the Pitching Help They Need. Maybe Not

08/15/19 Cleveland Indians vs New York Yankees at yankee stadium bronx ny yanks trail 11-1 after 4 1/2 inning #43 Jonathan Loaisiga ” spit the bit” after giving a 2 run homer in the 1st inning Neil Miller /nysportsextra

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

From the moment the trade deadline came and went and the Yankees did nothing to bolster their pitching, the narrative coming from the front office went something like this: We’ve got some guys coming back from injury that will help us.

Um.

One of those players returned Thursday night and the results were frighteningly playoff awful.

Jonathan Loaisiga got lit up by the Cleveland Indians in a 19-5 Yankees loss. By the time Loaisiga entered the game, the Yankees already were in the soup. One-inning starter/reliever Chad Green didn’t even last an inning, giving up two home runs in just one-third of an inning.

08/15/19 Cleveland Indians vs New York Yankees at yankee stadium bronx ny #57 chad green fires down the rosin bag after giving up a grad slam to indians #11 jose ramirez in the 1st inning Neil Miller /nysportsextra

Enter Loaisiga. He gave up four earned runs on another two home runs.

Loaisiga’s performance was understandable. He’s been on the injured list since May 8th with a right shoulder strain. Maybe he’ll be better in his next outing. Maybe not.

jonathan loaisiga Neil Miller /nysportsexta

Maybe the Yankees will get back Luis Severino. Maybe not.

Maybe they’ll get back Dellin Betances. Maybe not.

delin bentaces file photo nysportsextra/Neil Miller

Severino (right shoulder) threw a 30-pitch bullpen session, using all of his pitches. Betances (right shoulder impingement) also threw a bullpen session. If they can return, both will certainly need a few outings to gauge their playoff readiness. There are 39 games left.

severino /Neil Miller /nysportsextra

For Yankees fans, this loss brought back nightmares of that late-July stretch against the Twins and Red Sox when the pitching got blown up. That was prior to the July 31 trade deadline. This was after. The Indians scored their 19 runs on 24 hits, seven of which were home runs.

While the Dodgers, Yankees and Astros are considered the favorites to win the World Series, the Indians are a legitimately dangerous team; exactly the kind of team that could take out the Yankees in the ALDS or ALCS.

The Yankees (81-42) have shown remarkable depth and resiliency but they haven’t been tested the way the Indians have. Cleveland (73-49), once trailed the Twins by 11 and one-half games in the AL Central. Those teams now are in a virtual tie for the division lead.

The Indians starting pitching is so deep they felt confident trading Trevor Bauer (who the Yanks had eyes on) to the Reds. In return, they got Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes – instantly upgrading their lineup – and lefthanded pitcher Logan Allen.

Puig went 2-for-5 with two RBI and a run scored. Reyes went 2-for-6. The Indians are optimistic they’ll get Corey Kluber (broken forearm) back soon. They also might get Carlos Carrasco (leukemia).

But the Indians made moves before the deadline, making them a better squad. So did the Astros (Zack Greinke). Even the Dodgers acquired lefty sidearm reliever Adam Kolarek, who could be the kind of thrower that becomes a postseason star.

The Yankees made no moves. Maybe Severino, Betances and Loaisiga will return and round into form before the calendar reads, “October.” Right now, it’s looking like maybe not.

NOTES: Pete Alonso became just the third rookie in Mets history to drive in six runs in a game in the team’s 10-8 win over the Braves. He also tied Cody Bellinger’s National League rookie record of 39 home runs set in 2017. That record is falling like the stock market.

Indians pound Yanks pitching as they trail 19-4 thru 7 1/2 innings

Nothing else to do but smile, as the the Yanks pitching falls apart tonite in a brutal game as they trail 19-4 thru 7 1/2 innings.Things got so bad that the starting DH #36 Mike Ford came on to pitch in the 8th innning and promptly gave up 5 runs.

Yanks trail the Indians 11-1 after 4 innings

A bad start to the game by #57 Chad Green lead to him giving up 5 runs. #43 Jonathan Loaisiga did no better, giving up 2 runs in the 1st and two in the 2nd inning

Mets Getting a Brutal Dose of Reality

#36 Mickey Callaway file photo Neil Miller /nysportsextra copyright 2019

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

When a team had been going as well as the Mets, when Citi Field had become a playground of thrills and chills, when the Wild Card had become a legitimate goal instead of a punch line, these last few games have served as a brutal reality slap.

Reality: Despite that amazing stretch in which the Mets won 15-of-16 they remain a flawed and thin team.

After Wednesday night’s 6-4 loss to the Braves in Atlanta, an eight-game win streak has been replaced by a three-game losing streak.

It was just this past Sunday that the Mets were even with the Washington Nationals for the Wild Card. This morning they are three games out of the playoffs, muddled with six other teams that are within 4.5 games of the two Wild Card spots.

After winning series against the Padres, Pirates (twice), White Sox, Marlins and Nationals, the Mets (61-59) are assured of losing their first series since July 18-21 when they dropped 3-of-4 to the Giants.

Suddenly, the Mets world seems dubious.

“We’re still in a good spot,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway told reporters. “It’s not the end of the world.”

It’s just starting to feel that way.

#36 Mickey Calloway file photo Neil Miller /nysportsextra copyright 2019

But that’s no reason to lose sight of the long view. No true Mets fan, I’m referring to the Mets fans that have seen the annual hope in April evaporate by the dog days of August, really believed this was a playoff team.

They might have been talking themselves into believing in a miracle but the flaws were too glaring to ignore. The bullpen was awful. The offense was anemic. The depth was shallow. The manager was suspect. And the vaunted starting pitching wasn’t living up to expectations.

We’ve seen several of those warts these last three games.

* Uncloser Edwin Diaz continued his train wreck of a season in the 7-4 loss to the Nationals.

#39 Edwin Diaz file photo Neil Miller / nysportsextra copyright 2019

* Starter Zack Wheeler was off in a 5-3 loss.

#45 Zach Wheeler file photo Neil Miller /nysportsextra copyright 2019

* Seth Lugo, whose been as good a reliever as anyone in baseball, got scorched Wednesday night.

* Callaway still is trying to convince the world he made the right decision pulling Steven Matz in the seventh inning of Wednesday night’s loss when the Long Island native had thrown just 79 pitches.

And during this three-game streak the Mets lost their best hitter, Jeff McNeil to a hamstring injury.

#6 Jeff Mc Neil bats file photo Neil Miller/nysportsextra copyright 2019

Now that the Mets have completed the cream puff portion of their schedule, the flaws are popping out all over once again. Even during the amazing run, one of the players most responsible for that success, was planting the seed that this Mets turnaround wouldn’t necessarily yield the desired result this season.

“At the end of the day or at the end of the year, we are going to be in a really good spot,’’ Alonso told reporters in early August.

The truth is the Mets are in a really good spot going forward. If they resign Wheeler, which they absolutely should, the Mets will have the best rotation in the game. Alonso, McNeil and Michael Conforto are big time hitters.

Bolstering the bullpen, adding another bat and depth, and finding another manager should be high on the offseason to-do list. If the Mets do that, 2020 could be special.

Is this season over? Of course not. Is the possibility of the playoffs kaput? No.

But reality can be a brutal slap. Just brutal.

Mets fail to sweep the Nats on inconsistent pitching

08/11/19 Washington Nationals vs New York Mets at citifield queens ny #48 Jacob De Grom reacts after giving up 3 runs in the 1st inning today Neil Miller /nysportsextra copyright 2019

It would have been nice , but it was not to be on Sundays day game.A rare poor start to a game by Jake DeGrom, was follwed by a bad inning by both Gsellman and Diaz this afternoon, even tho the Mets pulled to a 5-4 deficent, the 2 run homer given up in the 8th inning sealed the deal today.

08/11/19 Washington Nationals vs New York Mets at citifield queens ny #48 Jacob DeGrom pitches in the 4th inning Neil Miller /nysportsextra copyright 2019

Although the Mets did take advantage of most of the chances today in the batters box,it wasnt enough to overcome the pitching mistakes today

08/11/19 Washington Nationals vs New York Mets at citifield queens ny #39 Edwin Diaz reacts after giving up a 2 run homer in the 8th inning

One nice play was by Mike concorto making a catch in deep center field in the 5th innning

08/11/19 Washington Nationals vs New York Mets at citifield queens ny #30 Mike Conforto makes a leaping catching in the 5th inning Neil Miller /nysportsextra copyright 2019

Pinch Yourself: The Mets Are Never Out of a Game

Credit twitter

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

 When was the first time you pinched yourself Friday night?

Was it when Todd Frazier’s three-run homer left Citi Field faster than the Mets can print playoff tickets? Or was it when Michael Conforto launched the most thrilling single of the season, driving in Juan Lagares with the winning run in a stunning, thrilling, unbelievable 7-6 win over the Nationals?

Or was it Saturday morning when you awoke on planet Earth and it was confirmed that the Amazin’ events of last night were not a dream?

Conforto really was running shirtless in the outfield after the giddiest players not in the Little League World Series celebrated in short center. Dominic Smith, his injured left leg resting on a scooter, was violating some obscure city driving ordinance by tearing out to join the celebration.

“It felt like the playoffs with the stadium packed,’’ Conforto told reporters.

Yep, it felt like the playoffs. It felt like the playoffs In Citi Field not Yankee Stadium, where playoffs feel like an annual rite. The fans that call Citi Field home don’t enjoy October baseball very often. But they got a taste of it Friday night, and man, was that delicious.

Trailing 6-3 in the bottom of the ninth against the best National League team they’ve faced since the All Star Break, J.D. Davis doubled against Nationals closer Sean Doolittle. Wilson Ramos singled to center.

Frazier came to the plate with visions of going deep.

“Pretty much,’’ he admitted later.

Frazier should be charged with baseball abuse for how criminally he crushed Doolittle’s pitch. Game tied, 6-6.

“You don’t feel like you’re out of a game when you’re on a run like this,’’ said Frazier.

Ah yes. The Run. Perhaps that’s the title of the second half of the Mets season. The Run.

With Citi Field still reverberating from Frazier’s blast, more magic. Joe Panik, making his Mets debut, singled. He was erased on Lagares’ bunt. Jeff McNeil flied to right. Amed Rosario singled to left.

Up came Conforto, the former first-round pick in the 2014 draft and closest thing the Mets have to an elite bat. His hard, rising blast to right cleared Adam Eaton’s head and mayhem came to Queens.

The win marked the first time this season the Mets won a game in which they trailed after eight innings. Forty-four times the Mets had failed in that situation. But on this night, the Mets told themselves, and their fans, they are not the same old Mets.

They had won for the 14th time in 15 games, a feat not accomplished since 1990.

As the fans erupted in euphoric celebration, the Mets hopped the dugout railing and made a run for Conforto. Pete Alonso, not quite sure what to do in such scenarios, pulled off Conforto’s jersey.

The Mets are now one-half game out of the Wild Card and one and one-half games behind the Nationals for the first Wild Card.

“Right now, we’re firing on all cylinders,’’ Conforto said. “Our confidence is just building with each win.”

Go ahead. Pinch yourself.