The Mets didn’t receive much production from Michael Conforto throughout the first half this season, due to injury and a lack of productivity.
They have seen just how much the locked-in slugger can lengthen and power their lineup, however, since returning from the All-Star break.
Conforto entered Tuesday night’s game in Cincinnati with four home runs over his previous five games — including two mammoth blasts in Monday’s wild 15-11 win over the Reds. He’d gone deep just twice over his first 51 appearances this season.
“It will do a lot. He will make [the lineup] even deeper,” manager Luis Rojas said before serving the second game of a two-game suspension Tuesday. “We’ve talked about [leadoff man Brandon] Nimmo coming in, how he can push the lineup down, and Conforto batting in the sixth [spot], and swinging like he’s swinging right now, how much deeper of a lineup we can have. He will make it very, very deep.”
The 28-year-old Conforto, who is slated to be a free agent after this season, spent five weeks on the injured list bridging May and June. He was batting just .230 with a .692 OPS in 33 games prior to straining his right hamstring, and the team’s starting right fielder managed just five hits in 46 at-bats over his first 18 appearances upon his activation from the IL on June 23.
Still, Conforto finally has heated up since crushing his first home run since May 1 — a shot to dead-center — in the Mets’ final game before the All-Star break against the Pirates.
That kicked off a five-game stretch in which he batted .381 (8-for-21) with four homers and eight RBIs entering Tuesday night. Over that span, the lefty slugger raised his overall batting average above the Mendoza line from .195 to .217 and his OPS from .646 to .718.
“He’s swinging like the Conforto we all know,” Rojas said. “That started happening right before the break, him just laying off some pitches. That homer he hit in straight-away center field, that last game against the Pirates at home, it was the Conforto we knew. That sweet swing, the guy that trusts his power to the deepest part of the ballpark or to the opposing side of the field, as well.
“It will be great if we have that guy, the guy that can get on base, the guy that can hit for power. That’s the guy that we saw [Monday night]. We want to see it now game-to-game. He’s not going to hit a homer every day, but he will impact guys a lot and it will make us score more runs. That’s what we’ve been getting, and it’s just made our lineup very deep in the last few days.”