Credit the Mets for having Michael Conforto hitting in the right spot at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night. Lineup jokes aside, Mickey Callaway and company craved a victory about as much as oxygen by the time they got to Philly, and it took Conforto’s spectacular ninth-inning blast (followed by Devin Mesoraco’s homer) to deliver a thrilling 3-1 win and allow the Mets to breathe again.
“I think we needed that feeling,” a noticeably relieved Callaway said afterward. “But we have a long way to go. It’s one inning of one game.”
That’s a healthy perspective from the manager. The Mets got a chance to exhale, crank the clubhouse rap and even smile a little bit. But they have no illusions about the work left to do.
Steven Matz barely survived five innings, requiring 95 pitches, and it was the bullpen’s stellar job that made Conforto’s heroics possible.
“We’re feeling good tonight,” he said. “So that’s a good thing.”
Friday in Philly began like too many days in Metsville. In the familiar formula, there’s the digging out from a previous calamity, the introduction of a new misadventure and the looming DL-stint-to-be-named-later.
First up was the lineup card gaffe in Cincinnati, which the Mets made sure to emphasize will never, ever happen again. Callaway said there was a 35-minute meeting with the coaching staff to prevent a recurrence of the batting-out-of-order thing, and assistant general manager John Ricco followed that up by going over the protocols again with the manager.
To us, that feels like an awful lot of time spent on making sure nine names are written down correctly on the right piece of paper. But we saw what happens when they’re not, so better to make sure everyone is on the same page. Even chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon was on the field chatting with Callaway, and it’s a safe bet the topic came up.
“From a front-office perspective, something like that should never happen,” Ricco said.
Speaking of mistakes, the Mets basically admitted Friday that they might have activated Vargas too soon by saying they intend to skip his next turn in the rotation. For their sake, they had better hope this tuneup helps to remedy his 13.86 ERA. Otherwise, Sandy Alderson’s $16-million investment could turn into one of his bigger misses.
With Matt Harvey gone, the Mets were banking on Vargas’ recovery from the fractured hand, but he’s been mostly non-competitive in three starts. So now we find out that the Mets — pressured by their underperforming rotation — should have given him more time to rehab.
“In retrospect, that probably would have helped,” Callaway said. “Had we been going good and had the opportunity to do that, we probably would have.”
Oh, boy. In the span of 48 hours, the Mets came to the realization that they screwed up both Wednesday’s lineup card and Vargas’ return to the majors.
As for a third potential issue, the Mets are pushing their luck with the health of Yoenis Cespedes, who Callaway said is playing at “85 percent” because of an ailing right quadriceps muscle.
Haven’t we seen this movie before? This is the same Cespedes who was limited to 81 games last year because of leg injuries, and he’s been sidelined by quadriceps troubles in the past. Evidently, the Mets feel the need to explain his sluggish movements. But they’re leading with their chin here.
“I think running a ball down in the gap or legging out a double or triple could be a little difficult for him,” Callaway said. “But at this time, we feel that’s necessary for the offensive side.”
It’s dangerous not giving Cespedes a disabled list stint. But we also can understand Callaway’s predicament with Todd Frazier already on the DL and Jay Bruce missing the Phillies series because of paternity leave. The idea of sitting Cespedes probably felt like too much of a handicap, even as they convinced themselves that these were mere potholes on the road trip.
“We’re looking forward to turning the page,” Ricco said.
For one desperately needed night, they were able to do so.