Mets outfielders Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes are forming quite a tandem in the 3-4 spot in the Mets order, possibly the most dangerous combination in all of Major League Baseball.
In the summer of ’61, New York was captivated by the “M & M Boys” in the Yankee outfield, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.
It’s the spring of 16, and the “C & C Boys,” Conforto and Cespedes are electrifying New York in the Citi Field outfield.
(The M and M Boys had a nice ring to it because of the candy. Let us know what you think Conforto and Cespedes’ nickname should be.)
The Mets’ season, really the fortunes of the franchise, changed exponentially when Conforto was called up and the Mets traded for Cespedes in late July last year.
They lit the Mets’ offense on fire the final two months of last season, and that has continued into this April.
The Mets’ offense got off to an incredibly slow start, but the turning point was when they embarked on a nine-game road trip on April 15, and Manager Terry Collins put Conforto in the three spot in the lineup, in front of Cespedes.
That night in Cleveland, the Mets won 6-5, and both Cespedes and Conforto homered.
That started a 7-2 Mets road trip and the current eight-game winning streak that has the Mets closing April with a 15-7 record.
Mets Manager Terry Collins said of having Cespedes, who likes carrying this lineup, “It goes back to when we signed him. The mood in spring training when guys were showing up was ‘this is big.’ The middle of our lineup has now become a force that you’re gonna have to deal with and I think you see it, you can tell.
“I’m gonna throw Michael Conforto in there, because when we decided to put him in the third hole, all of a sudden, guys in the middle of that lineup are saying, ‘boy, this is pretty dynamic.’ You can start with David (Wright), guys that can produce runs. Guys start to buy into it, they start wanting to be a part of it. This whole lineup, and you just see better focus. That’s why I keep saying sometimes after games, the at-bats I see, they’re pretty good now. The guys are laying off pitches that are close around the plate and looking for something they can really do damage with, and it makes a difference,” said Collins.
This past week showed how powerful they are, especially Cespedes.
After being out four days with a sore left leg, Cespedes came off the bench on Tuesday night against Cincinnati and hit a three-run homer to tie it up and the Mets went on to win 4-3.
Collins said of Cespedes stepping in to hit that homer on Tuesday night after being sidelined by injury, “It’s hard, it’s not just hard. This guy didn’t do anything. It’s not like he took batting practice the four days he was off. He didn’t do anything, because he couldn’t. And then walks in and hits a homer, and he hadn’t hit in four days, that’s special stuff. Most guys wouldn’t even consider, you wouldn’t even put him in those spots. The guy was sitting in his gym shorts in the fifth inning. He’s a unique guy.”
On Friday night, Cespedes got a two-run single followed by a grand slam that capped a 12-run third inning. It was record-setting in two ways, as that six RBI in one inning was the most by a Mets player ever, and the 12 runs in one inning were the most in team history.
Conforto doubles to start off that inning and had an RBI single to make it 8-0 ahead of Cespedes’ grand slam.
On Saturday, Conforto had a huge game, as he went 3-for-4, with a solo home run, a two-run double, and a single. He came within a triple of the cycle in the Mets’ 6-5 win over San Francisco.
Conforto has reached base safely in 17 straight games, dating back to April 10, and has a hitting streak of eight games. He has had at least one double in six consecutive games, tying a Mets record set by Jim Christropher, which was set in 1964.
Collins said after Saturday’s game of whether Conforto is presently one of the best in baseball, “Well, you know, if he just had been called up, I would say, you know what, nobody knows him – they know him. Scouting reports are out. This kid played in the World Series. He’s a good player. He’s gonna be a real, real good player. And, right now, as we know, riding a hot streak, and he looks great at the plate. We’ll try to pick our spots to give him breaks here and there. He’s gonna be a good hitter, we said that from the start.”
For the season, Conforto is hitting .365 with four home runs, and 18 RBI. In the past 14 games, Conforto is hitting .407 (22-54) with 14 runs scored, nine doubles, four home runs, and 15 RBI.
Collins said of what sample size he needs to see from Conforto to tell him he will be a big hitter for a long time to come, “I’m not smart enough to give you those numbers. All I know is this kid thinks he can hit. He gets in the batter’s box, he knows he’s got a great swing, he knows he can hit, and he just looks for pitches to hit. The best thing that I’ve seen about him is, when he doesn’t have success, it doesn’t shake him. He just comes back, puts his bat back in the bat rack and waits for the next opportunity, and actually learns by it.
Collins credits the Mets’ hitting coaches, Kevin Long and Pat Roessler, for the success of the lineup, which also boasts Neil Walker, who has hit nine home runs in April.
“We have, we are really, really lucky, these two guys that work with our hitters, they are really good. These guys are really good. They are on top of things, they are on top of what to look for. Between at-bats, they’re looking for different approaches. They got our guys’ attention because it’s been successful.”
Collins said of Conforto hitting in the third spot in the order, “Michael Conforto is not intimidated by where I have him right now, and I was concerned that he might be. That’s a big load for a young kid – keep in mind, he’s got a star hitting in front of him (Wright), he’s got a star hitting behind him (Cespedes). That’s an awful lot to ask of him, this kid’s just, put a bat in his hand, let him go up there and swing.'”
On adjustments Conforto has made and how he has adjusted to that part of the game, Collins said, “It’s ongoing, but I think there are, during a game, you see it. He’ll come back and he’ll talk about a certain pitch that maybe swung and missed at, he might come back and tell Kevin, ‘hey, that slider’s got more depth than I thought it had.’ He’s aware, he pays attention. That’s another thing these guys do, they share information from at-bat to at-bat.”