There is no star in waiting ready to be discovered and added to the Mets’ rotation who could fill Jacob deGrom’s spot if the best pitcher in baseball cannot return this season.
Maybe the Mets’ playoff hopes down the stretch will rely more upon a former All-Star rediscovering himself.
Without deGrom, who will be shut down for at least another two weeks, the Mets will look for contributions elsewhere. And Michael Conforto’s strong August represents a hope that if the Mets cannot outduel opposing clubs this month and next, maybe they can outscore them.
The Mets have been waiting for a stretch like this one — 10-for-30 (.333) with a home run, three doubles and five walks in his past 10 games entering Friday — from Conforto all season. The 2017 All-Star has shown peeks at being that player again, but each surge has been met by a cold spell that has lasted longer.
The lefty slugger was not in the starting lineup against Dodgers lefty Julio Urias on Friday, which he entered with a .213 average and seven homers in 79 games, but this might be his last breather for a while as a sea of excellent righties are set to follow.
Walker Buehler (2.13 ERA) and Max Scherzer (2.67) will close the series with the Dodgers. The Giants are lined up to pitch Kevin Gausman (2.29), Logan Webb (2.96) and Anthony DeSclafani (3.28) in the three-game set that starts in San Francisco on Monday. Buehler and Scherzer could then open the following series in Los Angeles.
If the Mets are to stay afloat, their right fielder will need to be the 2017 Conforto.
“You can see more conviction in his swings,” Luis Rojas said of Conforto on Friday from Citi Field. “I think his approach and some of his mechanics haven’t been consistent this year, and that’s where the struggles have come from. And I think we saw those be more consistent … in this last series.”
The manager said Conforto finally looked more decisive.
“This is the Michael we know,” Rojas said.
Entering play, the Mets’ 3.80 runs per game was third-worst in baseball, the club in contention because of solid starting pitching that has cooled in the face of so many injuries. Their lineup is thin without Francisco Lindor and with Javier Baez becoming the latest addition to the injured list.
The Mets can look to more than Conforto’s at-bat outcomes for encouragement. He has hit the ball harder in each of these past three months, his average exit velocities climbing from 87 mph in June to 89.2 mph in July to 90.9 mph in August. The hot stretch is not coincidental.
“We expect him to just stay like this for the remainder of the season,” said Rojas, who started Kevin Pillar, Brandon Nimmo and Albert Almora Jr. on Friday, rather than a Conforto who had hit .143 against southpaws. “This is the guy we know. He’s going to get on base, he’s going to hit homers, he’s going to hit doubles, he’s going to drive in runs.
“He hasn’t done it much this year, but we always believe he’s going to show up. And he showed up the last couple days.”
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