The eyebrows that were raised when the Mets’ lineup was announced Friday gave way to wide eyes when the club needed pinch hitters.
That’s the thing about not starting some of your best hitters: You can deploy them when you want them.
Left-handed hitters Michael Conforto, Dominic Smith and Jeff McNeil, all were left out of the Mets’ starting lineup against Dodgers lefty Julio Urias for the opening game of a make-or-break, 13-game stretch. All three, however, emerged from the dugout in a middle-innings lineup change that changed the game (though not its outcome) as the Mets’ comeback fell short in a 6-5, 10-inning loss at Citi Field.
“Almost the entire team was used today,” said manager Luis Rojas, who added he was proud of his club after the defeat. “Falling down 4-0 against this unbelievable Dodgers team and just being resilient.”
Against Urias, Rojas turned to righty hitters Kevin Pillar, Albert Almora Jr., who started in left field and right field, respectively, and Brandon Drury, who was at second base. The trio went 0-for-6 with a walk as the Mets were scoreless through six innings.
As for the three who sat out: Conforto is hitting .143 against southpaws, and McNeil and Smith had played both ends of Thursday’s doubleheader.
The Mets spared them as long as they could before riding the trio to a four-run, seventh-inning rally that tied the game, once Urias had been lifted.
The hockey-style lineup switch began in the fifth inning, when Smith entered as a pinch hitter for starter Tylor Megill, and took off in the game-altering seventh, when Conforto and McNeil stepped in, also as pinch hitters.
The Mets were trailing 4-0 when Conforto pinch hit for reliever Yennsy Diaz and drilled a double against nasty righty Brusdar Graterol. Smith followed with an RBI single to center.
After walks to Brandon Nimmo and Pete Alonso, it was McNeil’s turn to pinch hit for Drury. Against Dodgers lefty Justin Bruihl, McNeil dumped in a perfectly placed blooper that just eluded Cody Bellinger’s slide in shallow center and drove two more runs in.
“When it was our turn to get in there, we did our job. We produced,” said McNeil, who went 1-for-3.
The Mets tied it up when a passed ball glanced off Will Smith’s glove and Alonso slid across home plate, hopped up and unleashed a fist pump. The Mets finished with more hits from players who started on their bench (four) than from their starters (three).
They got the matchup advantage, but not the win. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen held the Mets scoreless in the ninth, retiring Smith, Nimmo and Alonso in order. Tomas Nido — the last player on their bench — flew out with two on to end it in the 10th.
“We’re just going to wait for our name to be called and be ready to help the team,” McNeil said.
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