Tag Archives: Michael Conforto

The Mets beat the Phillies in spite of Terry Collins

11 Apr

A pair of Jay Bruce home runs powered the Mets to a 4-3 win over the Phillies on Monday night at Citizens Bank Park as New York strung together consecutive wins for the first time in this young season.

The offensive struggles continued for the Mets, though, as Bruce’s longballs accounted for exactly half of New York’s hits against Jerad Eickhoff, Edubray Ramos and Joely Rodriguez. Score some for efficiency?

Anyway, the Mets could have put together more than four runs if they took more advantage of their seventh inning rally which tied the game at two when a Neil Walker sacrifice fly scored Bruce.

Bruce led off the inning with a walk against Eickhoff, who basically shut down the Mets in his seven innings. He then moved to third on a slow infield single from Curtis Granderson that forced an errant throw by Cesar Hernandez, which went down as an error.

After the Mets drew even on Walker’s sac fly, the Phillies intentionally walked Lucas Duda to fill empty first base — Granderson had moved up to second on Cameron Rupp’s error trying to get in front of Odubel Herrera’s attempt to throw out Bruce. Travis d’Arnaud flew out meekly, bringing up the pitcher’s spot with two outs, which forced Terry Collins to make his first real decision of the night.

He could send up lefty Michael Conforto or righty Wilmer Flores to bat for Jacob deGrom (or either T.J. or Rene Rivera, for full discosure). With Rodriguez, a southpaw, warming up in the bullpen for Pete Mackanin, Collins decided to go with Flores for the righty-on-righty matchup. If that doesn’t make sense to you, you’re not alone. To me, it was a baffling choice. Why not at least have Conforto pinch hit and put the onus on Mackanin to either choose to leave in his cruising starter (Eickhoff was at 91 pitches) or replace him with the lefty out of the ‘pen?

The only downside to this, as noted by Gary Cohen on the SNY broadcast, is that with the recent DFA of Ty Kelly and call-up of reliever Paul Sewald, the Mets only had a four-man bench for Monday’s game. Put Conforto in, and then he’d run the risk of having him face Rodriguez which would likely precipitate Flores hitting for Conforto. That would have burned half of New York’s bench.

But, it also would have burned the Phillies’ only lefty specialist. Adam Morgan, a soft-tossing sometimes-starter, was also available, but he wasn’t warming up, so it was going to be Rodriguez or Eickhoff. With the pitcher’s spot due up second in the next half-inning for the Phillies, Mackanin would have had to make another pitching change anyway in the bottom of the frame.

Wilmer ended up flying out against Eickhoff to keep the score at 2-2, and the Mets grabbed the lead against none other than Rodriguez in the top of the eighth as Bruce crushed a hanging curveball into the second deck in right field. Ironically, the lefty-on-lefty matchup precipitated by Collins’ unease to possibly waste Conforto was the one that won it for the Mets.

Still, despite the eventual result, this was a tactical blunder by Collins. Forcing Mackanin’s hand could have either led to Conforto facing Eickhoff — which the Mets would have liked — or to Eickhoff departing with a lot left in the tank and Wilmer facing a lefty, which the Mets also would have liked.

Collins acted like a scared manager in that seventh inning, and that’s just about the worst type of manager one can be in the second week of the season. What’s the point of having an extra guy on the bench if you can’t turn that depth into runs and hopefully a win? Just the expected benefit of the Phillies not having their lefty available for the Bruce-Granderson-Duda portion of the Mets lineup should have been enough for Collins to send Conforto up there.

It ended up working out this time, but if he’s given a similar choice to make in the future, Collins would be much better advised to roll the dice. For a Mets team that can sometimes get lulled to sleep by opposing starters with sharp curveballs and boasts a lot of home run power against hard-throwing righty relievers, that’s a risk worth taking.