08/09/12 4:20 PM ET
Citi's fences not focus of Mets' struggles at home
By Anthony DiComo / MLB.com
Though Giancarlo Stanton hit a pair of home runs Wednesday night that would not have cleared Citi's old dimensions, and though the Mets entered Thursday's play having dropped nine consecutive home games, those two facts are not necessarily related. Since the Mets altered three portions of their outfield fence over the winter, they have hit 14 so-called "new Citi" homers.
Their opponents had only hit 13, until Stanton, Greg Dobbs and Justin Ruggiano combined for four new Citi homers during a three-game series in New York.
"Last year, we didn't play well at home, and it was a huge concern of mine due to the shape of the ballpark, the fact that the ballpark was so big," manager Terry Collins said. "That was the kind of game we played. We ran the bases and we didn't have a lot of power, but we just didn't play good here. Right now, the ballpark's reconfigured. Guys had confidence playing here in the first half."
The Mets hit 11 of their new Citi homers by June 19, launching just three balls over the less-intimidating walls in the nearly two months since. Thanks in large part to Stanton, who is capable of hitting balls over any outfield wall around the league, their opponents have spaced out their new Citi homers more evenly, hitting six since June 19.
Given those power numbers, it is perhaps little surprise that the Mets lost nine in a row at Citi Field before Thursday's victory, tying the sixth-longest skid in franchise history. The last time they lost nine consecutive games at home was in 2004, at Shea Stadium.
"We could really utilize this place to a greater home-field advantage, but we're not playing well after the break at home for whatever reason," third baseman David Wright said. "The main reason is we're not pitching well, we're not hitting well. That's not going to result in too many wins."
Still, home runs are not necessarily the most troubling issue, because that is not an area in which the Mets excel. Wright and Co. have hit 97 homers on the season, good for 22nd in the Majors. Forty-seven percent of those have come at Citi.
"Of course you'd like to take care of business at home, in front of your home fans and give them a good show," Wright said. "We understand that to compete, you have to take care of business at home. You're not going to go be unbelievably successful on the road to make up for losing nine in a row at home."
Mets might start Dickey more often in September
NEW YORK -- The possibility of R.A. Dickey pitching regularly on short rest down the stretch is over. The Mets mapped it out and, citing Dickey's age (37) and workload (a league-leading 162 1/3 innings), decided that a few extra starts are not worth risking the veteran's long-term health.
But with Dickey leading the National League Cy Young Award conversation, manager Terry Collins said he still might consider using the knuckleballer more often in September in pursuit of a 20-win season.
"Will I? I certainly might, yes," Collins said. "He certainly deserves that shot. I thought Jose Reyes deserved to win the batting title last year, too. I got criticized for that, and I may get criticized for this."
Collins referenced the final game of last season, when he approved Reyes' plan to bunt in his first at-bat and immediately depart, giving him a near-insurmountable lead in his quest for the batting title. Reyes ultimately won the title, but was booed as he left the field, bringing Collins to tears after the game.
Still, that experience will not prevent Collins from doing something similar with Dickey if history is on the line. The Mets have not had a Cy Young Award winner since Dwight Gooden in 1985, nor a 20-game winner since Frank Viola in 1990.
"R.A. Dickey does not want the perception that he's pitching for the Cy Young Award -- that's not the perception he wants out there by any stretch of the imagination," Collins said. "The only thing he wants to do is help this team win, and if that means he has to pitch more, he's willing to pitch more. But he doesn't want it to look like we're just running him out there to win a Cy Young Award. That's not how he's wound up."
Originally, the Mets discussed using Dickey on short rest as a way to win more games as a team, while providing extra rest for oft-injured pitchers Johan Santana, Chris Young and Jon Niese. But as the Mets fell rapidly out of contention over the past five weeks, Collins changed his thinking.
Dickey, for his part, said what Collins expected him to say: That individual achievements are secondary.
"I would not want to be on three days' rest purely to win more games," Dickey said. "If we can claw back in this thing and they think that I give our team the best chance to win, or a good chance to win, then I'm willing to do that. And I've voiced that. But we'll see where it goes."
Byrdak knows surgery might be career ending
NEW YORK -- The news that Tim Byrdak will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery rippled through his family this week, forcing the left-hander to face his baseball mortality.
"It's been a very emotional two days," an emotional Byrdak said after returning to the clubhouse Thursday. "The hardest part was talking to my two little guys and telling them there's a real good chance their dad might not play big league baseball anymore."
Byrdak still hopes to pitch next year after undergoing surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder. But the operation is a rare one, undergone by only a handful of Major League pitchers -- teammates Johan Santana and Chris Young among them. At age 38, Byrdak knows there is a chance he may not recover from it.
Still, Byrdak was unwilling to dish any blame on Mets manager Terry Collins, who berated himself earlier this week for overusing his primary bullpen lefty.
"I never play this game with any kind of regret," said Byrdak, who came to Citi Field on Thursday in part to talk to Santana and Young. "The way I approach myself around here, I'm just going to go out here and have as much fun as I can every day that I can. I made a statement a long time ago that you never know when this game is going to take the jersey away from you, and that's kind of where I'm at now."
The Mets tweaked their lineup again on Thursday after being shut out by the Marlins, 13-0, on Wednesday night. David Wright shifted to the cleanup spot for the ninth time this season, with Daniel Murphy batting third and Ike Davis fifth. But the personnel was the same, with Mike Baxter and Jordany Valdespin manning the corner outfield positions and Jason Bay on the bench.
Brittany Viola's Olympic run came to an end Thursday morning, when the daughter of former Mets pitcher Frank Viola finished in 15th place in the semifinals of the women's 10-meter diving competition. With Frank and the rest of her family in attendance in London, Viola had been one of two American divers to reach the semifinals.