Apr 20

Mets Must Leave Conforto Hitting Third

It won’t be long before the Mets  face a dominating left-hander such as Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw or Gio Gonzalez. When they do, I hope Terry Collins resists the temptation to move Michael Conforto out of the No. 3 hole. I also hope he resists moving him if Conforto has a couple of 0-for-4 nights.

CONFORTO: Needs to stay hitting third. (AP)

CONFORTO: Needs to stay hitting third. (AP)

The Mets are sizzling since moving Conforto to the third spot and scoring close to six runs a game during that span. It’s not all Conforto, but he certainly deserves some credit. What the Mets have had during this span is something they haven’t for a long time, and definitely not last year, and that’s a consistent batting order.

“I think that is where he’s going to end up hitting one of these days full time,” Collins told reporters. “We thought he was swinging the bat good, so we thought it was time to put him there and see if he can springboard the offense.”

That he’s done. This is easily the Mets’ best lineup since 2006, when they had Jose Reyes leading off and David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado lumped in the middle. However, this lineup is potentially better because it is strong 1-through-9. The additions of Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker have made this lineup incredibly long.

Conforto in the three hole gives the Mets’ order a sense of stability. Curtis Granderson is a fixture leading off because the Mets don’t have a traditional No. 1 hitter the way Reyes once was. The Mets don’t have to count on Wright for power, so he’s fine batting second. Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda offer a right-left combination at Nos. 4 and 5, with both having 30-homer potential. Walker, Cabrera and Travis d’Arnaud are Nos. 6-7-8, with all having the potential of 15 homers.

Few lineups can match this potential.

Things might cool off at the bottom of the order. For example, I don’t expect Walker to continue this pace and hit 40 or more homers. But, what I do expect is Conforto to develop into a star. Another Carl Yastrzemski? Another Ted Williams? That’s dreaming. But, he can become a star and for that to happen he needs to stay in the lineup against left-handers.

The Mets are committed with Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard, but Collins seems to have hedged his bets with Conforto by saying he’ll sit, or move lower in the order, against lefties. Please NO. The only way Conforto will become the player the Mets hope is for him to hit lefties, and for this to happen he must bat against them.

Conforto said he’s comfortable hitting third because he’s always hit there.

“I never had any nervousness about it,” Conforto told reporters. “It just kind of felt natural, where I have been in college and through the minor leagues, so I felt pretty good there.”

Collins attributed part of Conforto’s success hitting third to batting ahead of Cespedes, who offers protection. Pitchers don’t want to walk Conforto because they don’t want to face Cespedes with men on base. Consequently, he’s getting better pitches and isn’t being worked around.

And, when pitchers make a mistake Conforto doesn’t miss.

Let’s hope Collins doesn’t become the man at the grill who can’t resist poking at the embers. Things are good now. Don’t fool with it.

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Apr 20

April 20, Mets’ Lineup At Philadelphia

The Mets behind Bartolo Colon go for the series sweep at Philadelphia tonight. Before we get carried away about how the Mets are pulverizing the Phillies at Citizen Bank Park, please remember it isn’t just the ballpark, but the Phillies’ incredibly bad pitching.

Here’s tonight’s lineup:

Curtis Granderson – RF

David Wright – 3B

Michael Conforto – LF

Yoenis Cespedes – CF

Lucas Duda – 1B

Neil Walker – 2B

Asdrubal Cabrera – SS

Travis d’Arnaud – C

Colon – RHP

COMMENTS: Despite Walker’s recent tear, I am glad manager Terry Collins resisted the temptation to tinker with the lineup and move him up. Perhaps it is because everybody is hitting, too, but it shows consistency and that’s a good thing. … I never cared much for Wright hitting second, but he’s no longer the Mets’ only big bat, so second is fine. Just keep Conforto third.

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Apr 18

Mets Wrap: Wright’s Power Now A Bonus

The Mets were once a team built around the power of third baseman David Wright. Injuries sapped his power in recent seasons, and with Michael Conforto seemingly set as the No. 3 hitter, Wright is entrenched hitting second, a position in the order that doesn’t demand a lot of power. And, with Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda batting fourth and fifth, not to mention Curtis Granderson at leadoff, the Mets have sources of power from other than Wright.

So, when he has games such as he did Monday, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say his power is now a bonus. However, how he went deep was what we’ve come to expect from Wright when he’s on his game. When Wright hit a pair of opposite-field homers in Monday night’s 5-2 victory at Philadelphia, it shouldn’t come as a surprise of his power to right field. When Wright is going well, he usually drives the ball to right or up the middle.

“It’s something that when I’m feeling decent up there, I can take a pitch out over the plate in that direction,” Wright said.

In doing so, Wright continued to make Citizen Bank Park his personal playground, hitting .293 with 22 homers and 69 RBI in the Phillies’ home stadium.

“Star players should never surprise you with what they can do,” manager Terry Collins told reporters after the game. “He’s dangerous here. In this ballpark, if he puts a good swing on the ball he can be dangerous.”

And, with the other boppers in the Mets’ lineup, their whole order is dangerous.

Mets Game Wrap

Game:  #12  Record: 6-6  Streak: W 2

SUMMARY: Noah Syndergaard struck out eight Phillies – giving him 29 over his first three starts – and backed by the two homers from Wright, and solo drives from Lucas Duda and Neil Walker, the Mets evened their record and have now won three of their last four games on the road.

KEY MOMENT: Back-to-back homers from Duda and Walker broke open the game in the eighth.

THUMBS UP: Asdrubal Cabrera doubled and started a double play in the field. He keeps doing the job. So far, he’s been a big plus. … A scintillating barehand pick-up and throw by Wright to end the third. … Cespedes legged out a triple with two out in the sixth, a sure sign his legs are feeling better. … Duda followed the double with an opposite-field double. … Four homers by Walker already.

THUMBS DOWN: A dozen more strikeouts from Mets’ hitters, including two more from Cespedes, who now has 18 in 12 games with only four walks. The Mets have 98 strikeouts in 12 games (8.16 per game average). … Jeurys Familia was hit hard, but survived the ninth.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Great news. Jacob deGrom took his son, Jaxson, home from the hospital. DeGrom will throw a bullpen Tuesday and could pitch in Atlanta this weekend. … Kevin Plawecki started behind the plate. Collins said d’Arnaud could be available Tuesday. …

QUOTEBOOK:  “He’s gotten so good, so fast, that it is remarkable,” – Collins on Syndergaard.

BY THE NUMBERS: 11: Mets’ homers in their last four games.

NEXT FOR METS: Logan Verrett starts Tuesday night against the Phillies’ Vince Velasquez.

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Apr 16

April 16, Mets’ Lineup At Cleveland

It wasn’t broke, so manager Terry Collins felt no need to fix anything. Michael Conforto – who homered Friday – will stay in the third spot, and Alejandro De Aza, who had three hits, including a homer last night is back in center today in Cleveland.

They’ll try to give Matt Harvey his first victory of the season after two losses.

Mets

Curtis Granderson – RF

David Wright – 3B

Conforto – LF

Yoenis Cespedes – DH

Lucas Duda – 1B

Neil Walker – 2B

Asdrubal Cabrera – SS

Travis d’Arnaud – C

De Aza – CF

Harvey – RHP

Apr 15

Don’t Give Credit For Mets’ Power Surge To Collins’ Rant

Let’s not go overboard giving Mets manager Terry Collins’ post-game outburst Wednesday credit for tonight’s power surge. We all expected the Mets would eventually hit. The Mets entered the game with only two homers, but clubbed four in beating the Cleveland Indians, 6-5, Friday night. They also had a season-high 14 hits.

CONFORTO: Homer gets it going for Mets. (AP)

CONFORTO: Homer gets it going for Mets. (AP)

Collins went off after the Mets’ victory over Miami, going after the supposed critics of his team’s effort, but I can’t recall anybody who criticized their effort. What has come under fire was their lack of hitting, but we all figured Curtis Granderson, Yoenis Cespedes, Travis d’Arnaud and Lucas Duda would eventually hit.

It’s an oversimplification to think Collins’ rant is baseball’s version of “win one for the Gipper,’’ because most everybody liked this lineup entering the season.

Michael Conforto, Cespedes, Neil Walker and Alejandro De Aza all homered.

Collins said Wednesday’s game was something “we had to have,’’ which two days later is still odd considering it was just the eighth of the season.

Collins took liberties with Jim Henderson, who, coming off surgery, threw 34 pitches the night before. He also pushed it with Jeurys Familia, who despite being ill, pitched for a third straight game to get a five-out save. He also played David Wright in a day game after a night game, something he said before the season he didn’t want to do.

All smacked of panic. Regardless of GM Sandy Alderson backing Collins, the outcome of the season’s eighth game is not essential.

However, give Collins kudos for moving Conforto up to No. 3 in the order. All too often Collins makes a move that works, only to reverse the next game. Here’s hoping Collins stays with Conforto hitting third and playing De Aza, who homered and doubled.

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