For the second straight game, Yoenis Cespedes didn’t take a swing that counted for the Mets, and again they lost to the Nationals, this time by a 3-1 score Saturday at Citi Field.
But that doesn’t mean Cespedes wasn’t asked.
It’s now twice in two days that Terry Collins has made a point of mentioning that he checked on Cespedes to see if his $110-million slugger could pinch hit in either of these first two losses to the Nats. The manager was told no.
“He spent the majority of the game in the trainer’s room,” Collins said. “When I went to him in the seventh inning, he said he couldn’t hit.”
For Cespedes, who is nursing a hamstring injury, getting treatment is not an unusual activity while the rest of his teammates are on the field. But the Mets chose not to put him on the disabled list, although he has a condition that often requires it, and Cespedes said Thursday that the doctors told him he’d be OK to play again in two or three days.
In the meantime, the Mets have dropped two games against their chief National League East rival by a combined three runs, including a 4-3 loss in 11 innings Friday night. This might not be Panic City for the Mets, but they can see it from here, and they’re off to their worst start (8-10) since 2011, when they began 5-13.
Just to get through this weekend, the Mets have needed to take a few extraordinary measures. On Friday night, they used Zack Wheeler to pinch hit (he doubled) and Robert Gsellman to pinch run. Jose Reyes was supposed to get a “mental health” break Saturday but was forced into action by the sixth.
The Mets are playing shorthanded, no matter how Collins chooses to reshuffle the names available to him, and the results probably won’t be much different. Juan Lagares is not a leadoff hitter, even though that’s the role he had Saturday, and Michael Conforto doesn’t really profile to be in the No. 2 spot against an accomplished lefthander such as the Nats’ Gio Gonzalez, who carried a no-hit bid into the sixth.
That’s where Cespedes comes in. Obviously, the Mets wouldn’t put him back in leftfield yet. He’s not likely to start again until Tuesday, at the earliest. Trying to run with any hamstring problem is a risky proposition. Rest is a necessity. But there’s already been a handful of spots, in a pair of close games, in which the Mets could have used Cespedes to take a few swings for the fences — mindful of keeping his legs in check.
We don’t know for sure what Cespedes is dealing with, but he and the Mets have not been very forthcoming about the severity of the hamstring injury. Collins won’t even say whether it’s a strain or not. As for Cespedes, he described the initial sensation as a “shock” on Thursday but has declined to elaborate since.
The past few days haven’t been perfect for aching bodies of any kind. We’re talking temps in the high 40s, a damp field, brisk winds. And the Mets really can’t afford to roll the dice by pushing any of their key personnel. But as players often will tell you, there is a difference between being “hurt” and “injured.”
Asdrubal Cabrera was the embodiment of that Saturday. After Collins forced him to sit Friday with an aching hamstring of his own, Cabrera was back at shortstop, though he didn’t appear to be 100 percent. In the fourth, when he tried to beat out a grounder to third, Cabrera hit the bag hard, wincing as he came across. He didn’t look any better as he walked extremely slowly to the dugout, then disappeared down the tunnel with trainer Ray Ramirez.
We thought Cabrera was done for the day, but he reappeared from the tunnel, with Ramirez in tow, grabbed his hat and glove and jogged deliberately to his position. Two innings later, Cabrera ripped a line-drive single to center — just the second hit off Gonzalez — to drive in the Mets’ only run.
It’s a safe bet Cabrera wasn’t feeling all that great. But with the Mets in a bit of a crisis mode at the moment and lacking in bodies, they’re going to need a few superhuman efforts to keep them afloat.
“It’s something we have to endure,” Jay Bruce said.
A few mighty swings from Cespedes could go a long way.