Matt Harvey struck out nine Phillies and allowed a season high tying nine hits Wednesday night at Citi Field as the New York Mets continued to take care of business taking the rubber game of three over Philadelphia, 9-4. Before game time manager Terry Collins indicated that Harvey would miss another start to preserve his innings.
Harvey could not comment after the Mets win that kept them 6-½ games in front of the Nationals. The righthander was in the training room and being treated for dehydration, and before the game an eventual six man rotation that the Mets will implement down the stretch was discussed.
Post game was going to be about Harvey. But Ruben Tejada had a season high four RBI game, including an inside the park home run. And the rookie Michael Conforto went 2-for-4, that included his fifth home run in a three-run Mets third inning to the opposite field.
So Tejada and Conforto, two of the valuable tools for manager Terry Collins, were major factors as New York set a franchise record with a 14-2 season record against the last place and rebuilding Phillies.
The needed tools for the September stretch are valuable and with Collins managing towards a postseason with the Mets, he is quick to say, “We now have the tools.” Tejada at shortstop one day, Conforto in left the next, and because of some late trading deadline moves, Collins has that flexibility to go with a different lineup down the stretch.
More importantly, and with positioning the lineup with a different look, it holds significance as to how Tejada, the young veteran, and how Conforto are adapting to not knowing when or where they will be until they get to the ballpark.
Wednesday night was another example. Tejada was not supposed to get the start, even though he has been one of the Mets’ consistent hitters getting on base. Wilmer Flores had to take an emergency leave and travel to Venezuela to be with his ailing grandfather.
Conforto, has become the right tool. Collins, with all of the additions has been able to insert him in the lineup in a platoon situation hitting against right handers, and he can hit the left hander as was seen before his callup from Double-A Binghamton.
The two-run home run that Conforto hit in the Mets’ third inning went to the opposite field. That also makes the platoon situation more complex for the Mets manager, and when righthanded hitters Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Lagares and Michael Cuddyer are all hitting, what do you do?
Collins, in other words has the tools he needs for the first time in his five year tenure as manager and it comes during the pennant stretch. Oh, it is also the most important time of year when every player becomes a valuable commodity on a roster.
“We’ve brought people in here that hit lefties,” Collins said about maybe using Cinfroto as an everyday player, “that have a career record of hitting lefties. And right now that’s what we’ve been doing and I’m going to stay with it.”
That was the answer, and of course the thinking and mindset can change about the makeshift of the lineup as quick as a weather changing pattern, Of course if Conforto slacks off down the stretch, or anyone of the other valuable tools in the outfield, there will be some daily changes in the final four weeks of the season, and with a magic number still not under discussion, it is still all about winning ballgames.
But Confoto is wielding a hot bat, .311 with 17 RBI in 31 games, and it will be difficult to keep him on the bench because he is hitting to the opposite field. Adapting well to the pressure of being in a pennant race, playing in front of big crowds and adjusting quickly with teammates have also helped his cause.
Said Conforto about hitting to the opposite field, “When I’m going the other way, well I always feel like I’m hitting well and things are clicking.” That again, he is the valuable tool that Collins has been able to use during this stretch of games that come along with the month of September.
And for Tejada, it has become a matter of maturing and becoming the valuable player that Collins saw when he took over as manager in 2011. During the stretch, Tejada and Flores can take turns or get some needed rest because Collins has those valuable tools he never had.
Added to the mix are the veterans Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson who may see more significant playing time, depending on the status of an ailing left quad that has once again hindered Daniel Murphy who has also been wielding a hot bat.
“They give me the opportunity to play a little bit more everyday, I try and keep it and stay focused to help the team,” said Tejada. “ I know I can play here and happy they give me the opportunity. I have more experience now.” The experience also to work the count and get good at bats, and that has been noticed by the manager.
Said Collins about Tejada, “He’s a good player and he still can be a very good player. It’s up to him to make sure that he plays with the energy he’s playing now. He’s a tough at bat, he can take a single, he’s got enough power to be a little dangerous. He has an outstanding arm. He has all the tools.”
The tools Collins has now makes the job a little easier, especially coming after the prior night when the Mets lost and played their stinker of the year. But as Matt Harvey continued to pound the strike zone the tools Collins now has continued to do the job.