Without Yoenis Cespedes, there is no magical run to the 2015 World Series. There is no tears-of-joy-inducing video montage, there is no beatdown of the Cubs and there is no heartbreak during Game 5 in Flushing. And, after each of the last two seasons, it seemed as if there would be no more Yo for the Amazin’s, as he flirted with becoming the latest exhilarating Met to ascend to true stardom elsewhere.
Through much of this disappointing 2017 campaign, however, the Cespedes honeymoon has been on the verge of fading. Limited with nagging hamstring injuries and underperformance when he been able to play, he just hasn’t been the same lineup-anchoring presence. However, if Tuesday’s 6-5 Mets win over the Padres is any indication, the slugger might be turning his season around.
Cespedes got New York on the board early, crushing a solo shot off Kyle Lloyd — making his MLB debut — in the top of the 1st to put the Mets up 1-0. It was the slugger’s first home run since June 23 in San Francisco and the type of brute-strength bomb he has made a staple of his career.
His two other hits, a RBI double in the fifth and go-ahead check-swing Little League roundtripper in the seventh, may have had more impact over the course of the game, but neither felt more like 2015 Cespedes than when he deposited Lloyd’s hanging slider into Petco Park’s left field seats. Michael Conforto came in for him on a double-switch later on — it was due to leg “fatigue” — but it was a positive night nonetheless.
Seth Lugo gave the lead back in the second, when home runs from Hunter Renfroe and Allen Cordoba made it 3-1 in favor of the Friars. San Diego would score once more off Lugo, who mostly settled down after making a few mistakes in the first couple of frames. He was charged with four runs (three earned) in his six innings and only struck out one batter with no walks.
Officially, Cespedes’ third hit of the night was ruled a triple, as he accidentally plopped a Phil Maton pitch just inside the right field foul line just where the shifted Padres weren’t. A wild Wil Myers relay throw past third base allowed Cespedes to finish off the Mets’ second error-aided Little League home run in as many series.
Paul Sewald threw a pair of perfect innings to back Lugo up but, for the second night in a row, potential trade candidate Addison Reed made things interesting in the bottom of the ninth. He needed Asdrubal Cabrera to make a nice play on a Jose Pirela grounder to stave off San Diego and bring the Mets to within nine games of the Rockies in the NL Wild Card race.
Bullpen bouncing back
If the top story from this win is Cespedes’ three-hit performance, the second-biggest should be Sewald, who looked as good on Tuesday as he has all season. After a rough start to June, the rookie has been the Mets’ best reliever in the past month or so. In Sewald’s last 13 innings (12 games), he has given up just nine baserunners and three runs while striking out 16 batters.
When his fastball is moving in on righties (and away from lefties) and the slider is working, Sewald can be fairly close to unhittable. Achieving a certain level of consistency is his next goal, but for now, he continues to be one of the most important guys in a bullpen that has quietly worked to redeem itself of late.
The outfield rotation
This is something Terry Collins, much to the chagrin of most fans, has mentioned in the past and will clearly stick to. Curtis Granderson got the start in center field over Conforto with a righty on the mound and reached base three times in five plate appearances. He also scored a pair of runs.
San Diego’s next two starters, Jhoulys Chacin and Luis Perdomo, are both right-handed, so convention would tell you that Terry would try to get Granderson in the lineup at least one more time this series. Cespedes’ status for Wednesday’s game is still unclear but it wouldn’t be surprising to see at least a preventative off-day for Yoenis, with Conforto starting in left and Granderson back in center.
Steven Matz, he of three consecutive subpar outings, will be on the bump for the Mets on Wednesday night at 10:10 p.m. Eastern against Chacin, who has a 2.72 ERA since the start of June and boasts a sub-2.00 ERA at Petco Park this season. He was supposed to start on Tuesday, but was pushed a day due to lower back tightness. Chacin’s last outing against the Mets — back on May 23 — was a disastrous one, as he gave up seven first inning runs en route to a loss.
Matz’s last start of 2016 was against the Padres and it was one of the best of his career, as he allowed one hit through 7.1 scoreless innings in a 5-1 win.
Photo credit: Jake Roth – USA Today Sports