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Shortened season puts pressure on Mets' potent offense

Mets rightfielder Michael Conforto doubles against the tlanta

Mets rightfielder Michael Conforto doubles against the tlanta Braves during the fifth inning at Citi Field on Saturday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Mets offense has sputtered out of the blocks. In their first two games against the Braves at Citi Field, a batting order that was supposed to be loaded managed only four runs. The team doesn’t have a lot of time to start clicking in a 60-game sprint of a season.

The Mets left 10 on base and were 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position on Saturday, so it was no surprise manager Luis Rojas glimpsed Amed Rosario’s productivity from the bottom of the order in the first two games and moved him to the leadoff spot for Sunday night’s series finale against Atlanta.

He said that regardless of the length of the season, those swinging the bat well will get more at-bats.

“I’m pretty confident about our offense,” he said before the first pitch. “Guys are going to get [into a] rhythm. Some guys are going to, just out of the chute, start swinging the bat well. Things are going to start connecting. The guys have shown before that they can hit and we feel the same way right now.”

“I think we're well on our way,” said Michael Conforto, who was 3-for-3 Saturday when Edwin Diaz blew the save and the Mets lost, 5-3, in 10 innings. “I think the hitters are really starting to hit their stride. We had a lot of opportunities yesterday — that was more of the story than that one pitch to [Marcell] Ozuna [who homered to tie the game with two outs in the ninth inning].

“The pitchers are fresh, their arms are really fresh,” Conforto said. “The endurance might not be there but their stuff is there. So we're getting our at-bats and we're starting to get close.”

Mets hitting coach Chili Davis, 60, remains in Arizona because of the pandemic, but is doing all he can to stay on top of the team’s hitters. Rojas said he conducts a daily hitters meeting via Zoom that includes the use of video of that day’s opposing pitchers. He also regularly has been in touch with individual hitters.

“He's contributing, having multiple talks with everyone on the team,” Rojas said. “We definitely miss his presence physically here. Chili is a great baseball man. But I think we’re getting all the information that he can supply the team with . . . It's working good.”

The scenario is what it has to be because of the health crisis. But one place in which Davis could be missed is for in-game adjustments.

“I talked to him a lot during the games last year, just to keep me centered,” Conforto said. “I won't have that [but] I do have [assistant hitting coach] Tom Slater, I've talked to him a lot during the games last year as well, but Chili’s  . . . [got] an awesome baseball mind. We miss him a lot, but we're happy that he's doing what's best for him.”

The Mets spent both preseasons wondering about how to get so many strong hitters enough at-bats, and that still could turn out to be the case. But no one batting order that struggles to produce can be given an extended trial this season. So Rojas could continue to shift based on what he sees each day.

“Why we're shuffling lineups is we're putting guys in the best position where they can connect with each other,” he said. “We’ll do that every single day against the particular starting pitcher that we're going to face.”

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