With two weeks left in the regular season, the Mets hold the first wild card in the National League, but it wouldn’t be business as usual without a daily disruption to their lineup.
The blemish in Sunday’s 3-2 victory over the Twins at Citi Field, which completed a three-game sweep, was the abrupt departure of Yoenis Cespedes, the only regular in the starting lineup who was offered a day off but wanted to play.
Cespedes, who had a double in three at-bats, approached manager Terry Collins in the fifth inning. “He came up and said he just got sick in the runway,’’ Collins said. “His legs were getting a little weak. He was getting a little dizzy, so I took him out.’’
The Mets said Cespedes was “nauseous and dizzy,’’ but Collins doesn’t believe it is cause for concern. Cespedes was sent home before the media arrived. “I don’t know why it happened,’’ Collins said. “I certainly will take a look at it. I just talked to him; he said he feels a lot better. I know our trainers dealt with it, but I don’t know the reason why.’’
Otherwise, the Mets, and Collins in particular, had a big day. Collins gave rookie righthander Gabriel Ynoa, who replaced the injured Jacob deGrom, his first major-league start, and he allowed four hits and struck out eight in 4 2⁄3 innings. He gave up a run in the second inning on a sacrifice fly by John Ryan Murphy.
Ynoa was pulled one out short of a victory. “I accept the decision,’’ he said though a translator. “The team knows what they’re doing and I’m thankful for the opportunity.’’
With Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce getting the day off, Michael Conforto started in rightfield and had two hits, including an opposite-field, two-run single in the first inning as the Mets took a 2-0 lead. “I think it was big for me to go the other way, not try to do too much in that situation,’’ Conforto said. “Kind of slow the game down a little bit and just take what’s given to me.’’
Collins wants to see if Conforto can shrug off a disappointing season, one that landed him in the minors, and earn a spot on the postseason roster if the Mets get that far.
“Nothing’s a given,’’ Conforto said. “I want to focus on today and tomorrow and the at-bats that I’m going to get in the future. Obviously, I want to be there come the playoffs, but I real ly have to take care of business, do my job. The rest will take care of itself.’’
The makeshift lineup also featured T.J. Rivera’s second major-league home run. He had two hits and is batting .344 in 21 big-league games.
“I don’t think there’s any question he can play here,’’ Collins said. “I truly believe in overachievers. I think he’s one of those guys.’’
Rivera has yet to prove he can’t hit. “I don’t think all of a sudden I’m starting to play the way I’ve played,’’ he said. “I always believed in myself, so I kind of ignored those thoughts.’’
Collins used five relievers, including Fernando Salas, who allowed a solo homer by Kennys Vargas in the eighth. Intent on resting Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia, Collins let lefthander Jerry Blevins remain in the game to face righthanded power hitter Brian Dozier with two outs in the ninth. Dozier has 41 home runs. Blevins struck him out.
“It was pitch smart, be smart to him,’’ Blevins said. “I wasn’t going to give him anything to get his barrel on. It worked in my favor today.’’
It was the last button, and Collins pushed it correctly. “He executed it to perfection,’’ he said of Blevins. “He was not going to tie the game up, no.’’
Down the stretch they come
The remaining schedules for the wild-card contenders for the final three weeks of the season:
METS (13: 6 at home, 7 on road)
Braves (3), Monday-Wednesday
Phillies (4), Thursday-Sunday
At Marlins (3), Sept. 26-28
At Phillies (3), Sept. 30-Oct. 2
GIANTS (13: 6 at home, 7 on road)
At Dodgers (3), Monday-Wednesday
At Padres (4), Thursday-Sunday
Rockies (3), Sept. 27-29
Dodgers (3), Sept. 30-Oct. 2
CARDINALS (13: 7 at home, 6 on road)
At Rockies (3), Monday-Wednesday
At Cubs (3), Friday-Sunday
Reds (4), Sept. 26-29
Pirates (3), Sept. 30-Oct. 2