Murphy named All-Star as Mets take series over Rangers

Rich Mancuso

Late Sunday afternoon,  and about a half hour after the New York Mets took a three-game series from the Texas Rangers at Citi Field the speculation was that either Daniel Murphy or David Wright, or both would be selected to the National league All-Star team. Major League Baseball had an embargo imposed to not have teams reveal who was selected so fans could tune in to the ESPN live coverage of the selections.

Word, though, was quietly leaked in the Mets clubhouse, and team publicity officials quickly denied with a smile that second baseman Daniel Murphy was headed to Minnesota next week. David Wright, a starter last year, who captained the NL Home Run Derby contest, was denied another opportunity as a starter or reserve.

That was fine with Wright because, he and many of Murphy’s teammates offered their congratulations when word became official that “Murph” would be their lone representative at Target Field a week from Tuesday.

So, the suspense was over and it topped off a perfect day for the Mets who took the series finale 8-4 from the struggling Texas Rangers.

 "I think it's human nature to be aware" Murphy said about the talk he was going to be a first-time NL All-Star. "But there's enough anxiety that goes into just trying to win games. I'm very excited, but the word I'd use is humbling and the other word is blessed."

He came into the game Sunday as the second leading hitter in the league and had 20- doubles with a .294 average, so the selection was definitely well deserved. Wright lost a starting nod at third by a little more than 300,000 votes to the Brewers Aramis Ramirez, after starting six times and being on the NL squad seven of the past eight years.

Murphy got an RBI double in the seventh inning that increased the Mets lead at the time to 7-1.  

But there are not many spots on the rosters that the respective managers can choose, and as Murphy said, it is an honor and something that players admit is a chance of a lifetime. Add some of the incentives in player’s contracts that give them another reason to be selected, though Murphy has no clause in his current deal with the Mets

Todd Frazier of the Cincinnati Reds and Matt Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals were selected over Wright as reserves by NL manager Mike Matheny.  The name of Murphy has also been the subject of trade talk before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline, and the Mets at this point do not look like sellers trailing the division leading Atlanta Braves by ten games.

Manager Terry Collins was not available for comment because of the hush period of leaking a name, though he has always said Murphy deserved all-star consideration. On Monday when the Mets open a four-game series with the Braves, he is expected to answer questions about Murphy in his pre-game meeting with the media….

THE FINALE WAS ABOUT WHEELER AND NIESE ON THE DL: There is never a lack of small drama with the Mets and Sunday was no different. Jonathon Niese was put on the disabled list, though the Mets say it is more of a precaution to strengthen his pitching elbow.

Was it the right move at this point of the season? Or were the Mets being cautious about the future of their reliable left-handed starter? Niese, of course expressed reluctance about the move that will cause him to miss one start, which enables him to return when the Mets resume their schedule in San Diego after the all-star break.

Niese seemed unhappy, as expected, at the same time he understands this is a precautionary move that will keep his arm strong with or without the Mets in playoff contention.

”I mean, I could pitch now," he said. "This isn't an injury. It's something I can pitch through, but it's something I would have to battle through the rest of the year. It seemed each start, progressively it got more tired.

Dillon Gee comes off the disabled list and is expected to replace Niese in the rotation and start Wednesday night against the Braves.

Collins defended the move. “He's been locating so well I don't think he needs the extra clicks,” regarding the velocity of Niese’s pitches. "His location has been outstanding, but we've got to get that shoulder strength back."   Niese, in 17 starts is 5-4 with a respectable 2.96 ERA, along with 28 walks and 74 strikeouts.

"It's something I can pitch through, but it's something I would have to battle through the rest of the year," Niese said.  "It seemed each start progressively it got more tired.” And with that statement Niese admitted it was a proper decision at this juncture of the season…

The Mets scored five –runs in the first inning, their biggest output in the first since May 29, 2013 at Yankee Stadium.  And their 60-runs in the first are tied for the major league lead. So you ask, if a team scores first, why are there not more wins? Simple, the bullpen woes and inconsistent hitting to get runners home contribute to their record of 39-49…

Collins was more than jubilant about the way his team has been attacking early. And though the Mets took two of three from the Rangers, a team with the second worst pitching staff in the American League, attributed also to injuries, he feels confident things will turn around in the second half.  Texas also lost seven of their last eight, 11 of 12 on the road.

In particular, the manager was raving about the RBI single from Ruben Tejada in the eighth inning that increased their lead to four. The Rangers with three runs in their half of the inning made it interesting, getting one of their three home runs on the day from Leonys Martin.

“The kind of hit Ruben got in the eighth wins games," Collins said.

Tejada, who has been having a difficult time again getting multi-hit games said, “It’s good for the team and me too.” About the next four with the Braves and three with the Marlins that take the Mets into the break, Tejada commented: “Play like we play now. Keep going with the Braves and Miami in the same division. Have to win a couple of series and keep playing hard.”

Last week down in Atlanta the Braves swept the Mets in a three-game series that widened their gap in the division over New York…

And then there was Zach Wheeler. The 24-year old right-hander, and a bright spot for the Mets future on the mound, was staked to an early lead and that helped his confidence. There were also some more adjustments as he continues the learning process.  He had better rhythm and timing with his delivery. The command was there with the fastball down and in the strike zone and he got his first win at Citi Field since last August 20th.

“It's a big thing for me because not always I was able to find it, "he said of adjusting his timing. “It felt good to come back out there and compete." He improved to 4-8, tossed 6.1 innings and struck out four.  Anthony Recker with a two-run home run in the first got the Mets an early lead.

Said Collins:  "We've got a young pitcher on our hands who's going to be really, really good. Zack gets better each start. Today his velocity was consistent throughout the game."

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