KANSAS CITY, Mo. - It would be easy to assume Mets manager Terry Collins started Juan Lagares in centerfield in Game 2 of the World Series on Wednesday night because of the inside-the-park home run that Alcides Escobar hit on the first pitch thrown by Matt Harvey in Game 1.
It also would be incorrect.
The misplay in left-centerfield between Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto had nothing to do with it. Collins always was going to start Lagares in Game 2 because Royals starter Johnny Cueto can be easier for righthanders to hit than lefthanders.
"This has nothing to do with the first play last night," Collins said before Game 2. "The same thing could happen if Juan Lagares was out there."
Probably not. Chances are the Gold Glover would have run it down. The ball hit off Cespedes' leg and became the 12th inside-the-park home run in World Series history and first since 1929.
Lagares has forced his way into the lineup conversation because of his stellar play in a limited role in the postseason. After last night's 0-for-3 performance in the Mets' 7-1 loss, Lagares entered is hitting .368 (7-for-19) with two stolen bases.
Lagares entered Game 1 for defense in the bottom of the sixth with the Mets ahead 3-1.
"It didn't make any difference," Collins said. The Royals scored twice in the sixth to tie it.
Lagares went 2-for-3 after entering Game 1. In the top of the eighth, he singled off flamethrower Kelvin Herrera to end a nine-pitch at-bat. Lagares then stole second and scored on Wilmer Flores' chopper to first that skipped past Eric Hosmer for an error to give the Mets a 4-3 lead.
Paging Bill Buckner! But it didn't work out for the Mets that way this time as the Royals tied it on Alex Gordon's home run off Jeurys Familia in the ninth and won it on Hosmer's sacrifice fly in the 14th.
In retrospect, the Mets may have overthought their Game 1 lineup. In exchange for using Kelly Johnson as the designated hitter, Collins started Conforto in left and Cespedes in center. In a ballpark with a huge outfield, it may not have been worth weakening two defensive positions just to get Johnson in the lineup.
But the numbers said Royals Game 1 starter Edinson Volquez is tough on righthanders and Lagares is on the bench most of the time because he has struggled against righties.
Johnson went 0-for-1 with a hit by pitch. Overall, the Mets' designated hitters went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts (all by Michael Cuddyer).
In Game 2, Cespedes manned his post in left with Conforto as the DH. Lagares -- along with the entire Mets' offense, except Lucas Duda (2-for-3) -- came up as empty as Kauffman Stadium's huge centerfield on a cold and windy night.
"It is very big," Lagares said through a translator. "I can definitely see the ball having a hard time getting out of there. It's a tough place to hit some home runs. It is very big."
As for going from an everyday player to a part-time role after the Mets acquired Cespedes on July 31, Lagares said: "It's come with its difficulties. But I stay positive, I work really hard and that way when I get those opportunities where I can kind of try to show my stuff, I don't take them for granted. I know what an opportunity it is to show what I've got. So they know that I'm ready to go."
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