The sight of Yoenis Cespedes barreling around third base, legs churning, flying toward the plate at full speed, brought to a mind a number of adjectives.
Determined. Irrepressible. Dangerous.
And that was observing from Citi Field’s press box. We can only imagine what third-base coach Glenn Sherlock was thinking as he held up both arms in an unmistakable stop sign during the first inning Wednesday night against the Phillies.
Sherlock was positioned about halfway down the baseline to make sure he was in Cespedes’ field of vision. It didn’t matter. Sherlock could have erected a concrete barrier. Cespedes never slowed, nearly flattening the coach as he sprinted past him, obviously on a mission to revive the Mets’ moribund offense with his own two legs.
But Cespedes’ sheer willpower backfired, as Phillies first baseman Tommy Joseph delivered a perfect relay throw off Jay Bruce’s two-out double. Cespedes, maligned lately for his aversion to sliding, hit the dirt this time — but to no avail.
“I don’t think it was that bad of a play by Ces,” manager Terry Collins said afterward.
Still, when you run through a stop sign, as Cespedes did, it’s much easier to defend the act of insubordination when you’re safe. This was a classic case of the trying-to-do-too-much variety, an obvious symptom of a failing offense, and the byproduct of a .500 Mets’ team that entered Wednesday night on a four-game skid.
On this night, however, Cespedes was excused for his overly aggressive behavior — and he can thank Bruce for that. Almost as fast as we could type Panic City, Bruce obliterated that narrative with a pair of loud home runs, each one giving the Mets a desperately needed lead in the eventual 5-4 win.
“I don’t believe in must wins in April,” said Bruce, who nonetheless stressed the importance of snapping out of the team-wide offensive funk. “I am a big believer in sticking with the process.”
And in the grand scheme of things, sometimes it helps to be lucky, too. Remember, the Mets pushed hard to trade Bruce this winter and failed to find any takers. Lo and behold, Bruce turns out to be their April MVP. After two more dingers, and matching a career high with five RBIs, Bruce is batting .309 (17-for-55) with a team-best 14 RBIs. His six homers are tied with Cespedes for the team lead.
Occasionally, when you wait around for the long ball, as these Mets usually do, someone comes through. That patience, however, tends to be in short supply around Citi Field, Creating runs with their feet, as Cespedes tried to do? Not exactly a strong suit.
So in the first inning, it was back to Panic City: population one, Citizen Cespedes.
That’s the mentality Collins fears when his lineup goes AWOL for any length of time. The manager wants to avoid the hysteria at all costs, to prevent the category of mistake that Cespedes committed.
“If you panic in April, what are you going to do in September?” Collins said yesterday afternoon. “We’ve been there before. We’ll get through this.”
That’s the stuff a manager leans on nearly three weeks into a season that isn’t going as planned. Nothing relieves that pressure quite like the barrage Bruce inflicted. But this win came with a toll. Lucas Duda left the game with a hyperextended left elbow and Travis d’Arnaud exited with a bruised right wrist. The Mets probably won’t know the extent of those injuries until today.
Until then, everyone could enjoy seeing Bruce sporting the hero’s crown, along with being wrapped by the latest addition to the Mets’ fashion line: a blue-and-orange silk robe. He looked ridiculous. But happy.
“They give it to you,” Bruce said, “you wear it.”
And the Mets’ creeping anxiety? That got dumped with the dirty laundry.