Michael Conforto has found his stroke again, that sweet lefty swing the Mets had glimpses of before a devastating shoulder injury set him back.
But that appears to be in the past now, with Conforto finally looking fully comfortable at the plate again and enjoying some consistency. He had three hits and a career-high six RBI Monday night, the sixth time in the last 10 games he has had multiple hits, leading the Mets to a 9-4 win over the Phillies.
Manager Mickey Callaway was short and sweet about his young slugger’s big night:
“This is the Michael Conforto that everyone wants to see.”
At his lowest point this season — when it looked like Conforto might never fully recover from that ugly shoulder dislocation on a swing last season — his batting average had plummeted to .187 after an 0-for-5 showing in a May game against Colorado. But following Monday’s win, Conforto is hitting .242, a long climb out of those May and June doldrums that corresponded with a dismal period for the Mets as a whole. His three-run home run to center field in the top of the ninth was his 26th of the season, one off his career-high, and his 75 RBI are already a career mark. He has 22 RBI in 16 games just this month.
“It’s always tough to understand exactly why,” Callaway said of the slow start, mentioning the shortened spring training due to the injury. “But I think just as the season has gone along, he’s gotten better and better.”
On Monday, Conforto notched the biggest of his three hits in the seventh inning, a two-out double that scored Amed Rosario and broke a 4-4 tie. Conforto had also contributed to the Mets’ three-run fifth inning with a two-RBI single that plated Jeff McNeil, who continued to show his hitting prowess with yet another three-base knock performance. Conforto and McNeil, the two lefties hitting second and third in the Mets order, are fast becoming a dangerous combination.
Pitching with a three-run lead in the bottom of that fifth inning, though, the wheels came off for Zack Wheeler. After cruising through the first four innings, the suddenly surging right-hander lost command. He hit two batters in the inning and gave up three hits, allowing four runs to come home as the Phillies took back the lead.
Those were all the runs Wheeler would allow over seven innings, the most he had given up in a game since July 14th against the Nationals.
At one point between the fifth and sixth innings, Wheeler had plunked three of the six batters he faced. But something should be said for Wheeler grinding it out and limiting the damage, keeping the Mets in the game.
Manager Mickey Callaway had enough trust in Wheeler to bring him out for a seventh inning, despite the struggles with command, and the right hander rewarded his skipper with a scoreless frame. It’s the mark of a pitcher who has newfound confidence in his stuff.
Though Wheeler has looked like a different pitcher since the All-Star break with nine wins in that time span, Callaway suggested there’s a possibility they could shut the right hander down before the end of the season.
“It could be, if we feel he’s had enough,” Callaway said. “He’s in a really good spot, and we want to make sure we’re taking care of the player.”
Wheeler said that decision is out of his hands.