LOS ANGELES — Immediately before the biggest moment of the Mets’ 7-3 win Tuesday against the Dodgers, Michael Conforto got unsolicited but critical advice from a teammate he called “my new hitting coach,” Robinson Cano, who is injured but traveling with the club.
The Dodgers brought in lefthander Scott Alexander to face Conforto with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh. Cano — with all of four lifetime at-bats (no hits) against the reliever — approached Conforto to give him a heads up that Alexander was going to try to get Conforto to roll over on a sinker for an inning-ending double play.
“He’s going to try to drop that thing under your barrel,” Cano told Conforto. “So you just got to get it up.”
The result: a sinker, yes, but in the middle of the zone. Conforto, hoping for a sacrifice fly to give the Mets the lead, instead popped it to leftfield for a grand slam, the first of his career. It was the Mets’ first hit in 13 at-bats with a runner in scoring position.
“Good advice, for sure,” Conforto said.
Cano was the first Met to hop over the dugout railing to greet Conforto upon his return.
“He was in my face, ‘I told you. I told you,’” Conforto said. “I told him, in front of [hitting coach Chili Davis], that he’s my new hitting coach. He’s going to be by my side until he’s back on the active roster.”
In a well-rounded win that got the Mets to 27-27 as their season hit the one-third mark, Steven Matz (4-3) allowed just two runs in six innings, Todd Frazier homered, Amed Rosario and Carlos Gomez each had multiple hits and Robert Gsellman escaped his self-made jam by getting Cody Bellinger to fly out to left.
That came with two runners on in the bottom of the seventh, the Mets already clinging to their fresh Conforto-provided lead. Manager Mickey Callaway said he considered intentionally walking Bellinger, an NL MVP front-runner with a .382 average and 1.239 OPS, even though that would have meant putting the tying run on base.
“That’s how good things are going for him,” Callaway said.
Instead, Callaway trusted Gsellman, who got the out. “You see what he’s done, but you still have to go after him with men on base,” Gsellman said. “I did exactly that.”
Matz’s final line looked plenty fine — six strikeouts, three walks and four hits, including Bellinger’s 20th homer — but Callaway saw much more than that. The manager heaped praise on Matz, whose 3.55 ERA is the lowest among the Mets’ vaunted starting pitchers.
“That’s the best I’ve ever seen Matz,” Callaway said. “That’s a great lineup. He got the ball, he threw the ball. Not one ounce of emotion. You could tell he was locked in. From pitch one, he had a different look on his face. That’s just by far the best I’ve ever seen him.”
Mats said: “Wilson [Ramos] just called a great game, honestly. He saw their approach and I didn’t shake him off one time.”
Rich Hill held the Mets to two runs in six innings, allowing six hits and a walk. He struck out six and kept Pete Alonso and Conforto, the Mets’ two best hitters in the lineup Tuesday, to a combined 0-for-6 with five strikeouts.
The Mets made Hill throw enough pitches that they earned three innings against the Dodgers’ bullpen, which, like the Mets’, has had issues. Those issues climaxed during the four-pitcher, four-run top of the seventh, Conforto’s highlight assisted by Cano.
Callaway said the Mets missed that sort of impact bat during Conforto’s week-and-a-half absence because of a concussion this month.
“When you put a guy like Conforto in there,” Callaway said, “it changes the whole dynamic.”