It’s getting close to nitty-gritty time for the Mets. So when Terry Collins makes his lineup decisions, sentiment and contracts have to go out the window in favor of a win-now mentality.
That’s why Curtis Granderson started Saturday night in the cleanup spot against Nationals righthander Tanner Roark and Jay Bruce was on the bench.
Neither veteran has been knocking the cover off the ball. But Bruce was 0-for-8 against Roark and Granderson was 6-for-20 (.300) with four doubles.
Simple. Decision made.
And it worked perfectly as Granderson had the go-ahead hit in the Mets’ 3-1 victory at Citi Field. The Mets moved to within one little ol’ game of the Cardinals for the second NL wild-card spot.
Baseball being baseball, of course Granderson was thrust into the spotlight right away, with the Mets down 1-0 in the third inning. The bases were loaded after the Nationals intentionally walked Yoenis Cespedes, as any team would. Granderson toted a 2-for-42 mark with two outs and runners in scoring position to the plate.
Two-for-42. It’s almost unthinkable. Tim Tebow probably could do better than that, for crying out loud, and he hasn’t played baseball since 2005.
Granderson swung at a first-pitch breaking ball, lining it past the shift and into rightfield for a two-run single. The Mets had their first lead of the night and they made it last behind impressive rookie Robert Gsellman and four relievers.
“Curtis Granderson’s just got the moxie, I guess you could say,” Collins actually said when it was over.
Said Granderson: “I don’t know what that means. Is that like a nightclub or something?”
Many Mets fans won’t want to read this, but sometimes Collins makes the right moves. Really.
“We play the Cardinals, we play the Giants, same lineup every night,” Collins said. “That’s a luxury we really don’t have right now because we’ve got to mix and match. But I think what that also does is, when you come to the ballpark, you’ve got a chance to be in the game.”
The other right move Collins made was starting Michael Conforto in center. It’s something that needs to happen every day until Conforto either proves or disproves that his recent sizzling-hot stretch at Triple-A Las Vegas was the real deal.
In his second stint with Vegas this season, Conforto hit .493 with six homers and 13 RBIs. Thin air, watered-down pitching, late-night trips to the casino buffet; whatever the reason for those stats, the kid has to play up here after that Ruthian (or Cespedesian) display.
We thought the Mets had figured that out when they put Conforto directly into the lineup Thursday against the Marlins when he came back as a Sept. 1 call-up.
On that night, Conforto started in left to give Cespedes a night off. Conforto went 1-for-3 with a double and a hit by pitch in the Mets’ 6-4 loss. In his biggest at-bat, he grounded into a 1-2-3 double play to squelch an eighth-inning rally. But the 23-year-old still showed enough to earn an extended look, right?
Wrong. On Friday, Conforto was back on the bench with Granderson in center and Bruce in right. Made no sense. The Mets lost to Washington, 4-1, with Granderson and Bruce combining to go 1-for-8. Look at the matchups. Play Granderson or Bruce. Not both. Not now.
On Saturday night, Conforto went 1-for-3 with a walk. He doubled off the leftfield wall in the second, missing a home run by inches. Conforto’s opposite-field stroke is working quite nicely.
His biggest impact on the game came on defense. The Mets led 3-1 in the seventh when old friend Daniel Murphy sent a screaming liner to center. Conforto, a neophyte at the position, hesitated slightly before coming in and grabbing the ball with a dive.
Not even Mighty Murph could slay the Mets. One game out. Nitty-gritty time for sure.