Michael Conforto tapped the brakes Sunday on the growing concerns over his recent dip in production. The Mets outfielder had two hits and two RBIs in the 5-1 win over Washington at Citi Field, and it may be that the leadoff hitter has found his way back at the plate.
This was just the third day in the past 23 that Conforto’s batting average rose, but the main reason for that was his torrid first seven weeks. He arrived at May 25 hitting .341 with 13 home runs and 32 RBIs in 41 games. It could have been argued he was having an even better season than the Yankees’ Aaron Judge.
But Conforto went on a steady slide, slashing .174/.337/.290 with one home run and four RBIs the next 20 games. Terry Collins suggested that pitchers were beginning to attack him differently, and that Conforto had been working to adjust.
“He’s going to be a good hitter,” Collins said. “You’re going to have ups and downs in this game. As happens, he raised the bar so high with what he did for two months that the expectations (were) for him to stay up there. This is the big leagues — other teams will make adjustments. So what he’s got to do is return it, back off and say, ‘I’m going to make some changes, too.’ ”
Conforto knew what the pitchers were doing.
“They want me to chase. They want me to go outside the zone,” he said. “They’ve become less likely to give in to me. That’s just all part of it. You’ve got to be able to evolve to how the pitchers are throwing you. So it’s quality at-bats and stick to my strengths and everything will be good.”
Conforto went the other way — down the third-base line — for a run-scoring single that capped a two-run fourth and put the Mets up 3-1. In the sixth he laced another RBI single to centerfield for a 4-1 lead.
“I found some holes today, and using the whole field is a good thing for me,’’ said Conforto, who is hitting .289 with 14 homers and 38 RBIs. “It was good to see me hitting a ball well up the middle, poking one down the line. It’s definitely a good start and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
Shaking himself from the slump was complicated by a bout with back discomfort that began last Sunday in Atlanta. Conforto was out of the starting lineup for four straight games, pinch hitting in the last two before returning to it Friday. His back hasn’t bothered him since.
“That’s what happens when you sit on the bench a little while. You have to come back and be ready to go,” he said. “It was tough to come back and try to get my feet back under me against those guys.”
Conforto also had a hot start in 2016, but when it took a downturn he never pulled out of it and ended up in the minors. This time, he said, his confidence has remained high. “It always comes back,” he said.