More HB: Mets ready for Dodgers, Nats debacle

It’s a wonderful autumn Monday here in the city that never sleeps. Here are the hot topics fresh off a big sports weekend:

-Congrats to manager Terry Collins on guiding the Mets to a division title. Nobody takes more crap than the classy 66-year old baseball lifer. In an Amazin’ season, he’s done a great job. It was Collins who kept his team together until GM Sandy Alderson went out and got Yoenis Cespedes. It was also Terry who handled himself well following the Matt Harvey “innings limit” controversy created by evil agent Scott Boras. Once Collins had the talent, you see how it played out. The Mets ran away from the bumbling and stumbling Nats who embarrassed themselves Sunday. More on that later. Now Collins gets the chance to see if he can manage a team of aces to a third world title.

-Following that odd Harvey start where Collins pulled him after five scoreless in a brutal Yankee loss, he sent him back out there to get the ‘W’ in Saturday’s clincher. And Harvey threw 97 pitches allowing a pair of runs in six-plus while fanning six Reds in a 10-2 romp. He’s on board and will be ready for the postseason. That’s what it’s all about.

-After nine years away from October, Mets captain David Wright gets another crack at it. If there’s a more deserving player, I can’t think of one. After everything he’s been through including the uncertainty surrounding his bad back, he’s come back and hit a couple of satisfying home runs including the exclamation point in the ninth on Saturday. It’ll be fun to see if he can deliver on the best team the Mets have had since that heartbreaking conclusion in Game 7 of the NLCS. The pitching part is better with Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Bartolo Colon with Jon Niese and likely Steven Matz going to the pen.

-The Mets are fighting for home field in the NLDS against the Dodgers. With LA limping to the finish line, the Mets are a game and a half up in the final week of the regular season. They would love to get that potential fifth game at Citi Field. However, I can’t help but wonder if the Dodgers will be an easy opponent.

-Obviously, they have a pair of aces in Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke. So, they’ll have to work the count and get to the Dodger bullpen. A team weakness with the exception of closer Kenley Jansen. However, LA’s lineup doesn’t strike fear. Adrian Gonzalez is their most dangerous hitter. Corey Seager is the unknown. How much impact will the young phenom have? Joc Pederson has been a disaster in the second half. Dodger skipper Don Mattingly hasn’t hesitated to bench him against lefties. Obviously, he’ll face right-handers if he plays.

-Mattingly also isn’t sure about the availability of Yasiel Puig, who’s been out since Aug. 27 with a right hamstring strain. Justin Turner hasn’t been the same since returning from the disabled list. Howie Kendrick is a proven playoff performer with the Halos. So is Jimmy Rollins, who did plenty of damage to the Mets for the Phillies the last time they were relevant.

-If we’re comparing offenses, the Mets are deeper with Cespedes the headliner who carried his team to their first NL East crown since ’06. With Wright and Daniel Murphy along with Curtis Granderson and Travis D’arnaud, the Amazin’s boast some solid bats. Collins can also go to a righty lineup against Kershaw that features Michael Cuddyer and Juan Lagares. They’re hoping to have vet Juan Uribe (chest) for the NLDS. He’s gotten some big hits since coming over from the Braves. The wildcard is rookie Michael Conforto, who’s swung a good bat against righties with all eight of his homers coming off them. But he’s only had a dozen at bats versus southpaws.

Wilmer Flores remains the turning point when he cried thinking he was traded with injured starter Zach Wheeler to Milwaukee for Carlos Gomez. He’s been a steady and productive player since shifting to second with Ruben Tejada reclaiming shortstop. Lucas Duda has been streaky. He’s gone deep lately clubbing three dingers in the Mets’ last two wins over hapless Cincinnati. He is tied with Granderson for the team lead in homers (25). Oddly enough, he hits lefties better going .299-7-21 in 117 at bats. Most of the power has been supplied off righties with 18 home runs but a .227 average in twice as many at bats (317).

-Collins also has Kelly Johnson who can come off the bench as a pinch-hitter or play utility. The pen is a bit better since adding Tyler Clippard and Addison Reed to help set up flame thrower Jeurys Familia.  The Mets’ depth on both sides should give them a decided edge.

-So the fireworks finally erupted in the Nats’ dugout Sunday. Fittingly, it came in a ugly 12-5 loss to that world beater Philadelphia. Following a Bryce Harper at bat in which he didn’t run out a routine fly out, Jonathan Papelbon took him to task as he got back to the dugout. Paplebon had a good point about the 22-year old superstar who didn’t show much leadership even though his team was eliminated a day before. However, Papelbon attempted to choke Harper causing teammates to quickly come to the NL MVP front runner’s aid. That’s unacceptable but expected from a hot head like Papelbon. It led to a four-game suspension from major league baseball and the Nats suspending him for the rest of the season. A sad commentary on a frustrating season for the Nationals.

-Of course, clueless skipper Matt Williams didn’t say much after this. Why would he? He was a superb player for the Giants, Indians and Diamondbacks. But is overmatched as a manager. With the Nats underachieving so badly with 80 wins, he’ll no doubt lose his job. It’s not just on Williams. But rather the organization as a whole. They need to change the attitude and leadership. It’ll be an interesting off-season.

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Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.

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