MINNEAPOLIS — In case you had started to forget, since there have been so few reminders in recent weeks, Michael Conforto provided one Tuesday: He is really good at baseball.
Conforto went 4-for-4 — matching a career high — with the go-ahead RBI and a dramatic leaping catch in left-centerfield. That spurred the Mets to a 3-2 win against the Twins at Target Field and their first three-game winning streak since May 20-23 (four straight).
The Mets’ bullpen allowed three hits in five shutout innings. Edwin Diaz (two hits) stranded the bases loaded in the ninth.
Conforto was in the middle of everything else the Mets (43-51) did. The highlight that left him most satisfied, though, was neither the catch nor a 110-mph line drive. It was a weak fifth-inning grounder that sneaked through the left side of the infield for the eventual game-winning single.
“I feel like maybe a couple weeks ago, I don’t stay on that ball long enough to poke it the other way,” Conforto said. “And obviously the fact that it gave us a lead is huge as well.”
Conforto’s single in the first made it two in a row after Jeff McNeil did the same on the first pitch of the game against Michael Pineda (three runs, one earned, six innings). They both scored after the Twins (58-35) assisted with a passed ball, a wild pitch and a field error by second baseman Jonathan Schoop.
In the third, when Nelson Cruz sent a fly ball to deep left-center with two outs, Conforto jumped and caught it while crashing into the wall, much to the delight of Mets relievers on the other side. Having preserved a one-run lead, Conforto jogged off the field with a big smile and an emphatic high-five from leftfielder Dominic Smith.
“That play was a product of us working on it. Hopefully I can do more of that,” said Conforto, a corner outfielder who has been playing center because of the Mets’ lack of viable alternatives. “Being aware of how far you are from the wall, being aware of the track, being able to time your jump. Just ended up coming down right at the top of the wall. It felt like something we had practiced quite a bit.”
The big night raised Conforto’s average an even 10 points — .241 to .251 — and registered as a pleasant surprise given his recent performance. Since May 26, when he returned from a concussion, Conforto had a .213/.307/.419 slash line entering play Tuesday.
“Obviously, it’s been up and down — a little more down lately,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “But I think you’re going to look up at the end and you’re going to see a pretty good season out of Michael Conforto.”
Steven Matz allowed two runs in four innings in his first start since June 29 (and a bullpen stint before the All-Star break). He gave up five hits, including a solo homer from Schoop, and one walk.
“Definitely wasn’t as sharp as I’d like to be,” Matz said. “But I felt good out there, I felt comfortable attacking guys.”