Terry Collins is still considering Juan Lagares in the outfield for Game 3
In Game 1 of the World Series, Terry Collins employed an outfield alignment of Michael Conforto in left field and Yoenis Cespedes in center field.
It was the same alignment Collins used from the end of July through the entire postseason against right-handed pitching, and it was hard to argue with that formula even though it meant having Juan Lagares – the superior outfielder to Conforto – on the bench.
And certainly, the Mets 29-19 record in games started by Conforto is confidence-inducing in and of itself.
But right off the bat – both literally and figuratively – that alignment was tested in Game 1 when Alcides Escobar drove a ball to the wall in left-center field.
The ball should have been caught, but it instead fell in between Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes, resulting in what really was an unnecessary inside-the-park home run for Escobar on a ball that just had to be caught, and wasn’t.
Conforto said he thought he heard Cespedes call him off, but Cespedes never actually called for the ball, who ultimately made a futile, last-ditch effort to catch the ball.
So in Game 2, Collins opted to move Cespedes to left field, Conforto into the designated hitter role, and Juan Lagares into center field.
And as is always the case, or seems to be anyway, Lagares’ range and arm were tested throughout the game on Wednesday. And, he was unable to come make two critical catches – one in front of him and one going back – and could not make two throws to the plate accurately in attempts to cut down runners at home.
But despite Lagares’ rough night in the field on Wednesday, there’s no question about Lagares abilities in the outfield, and Terry Collins is not opposed to using Lagares again if he proves to be the best option for him in Game 3.
“I have not written the lineup for tomorrow,” Collins said on Thursday. “When I do, again, it will be the contingency of who we’re facing, how does he pitch, what’s our best options, and as we get together as a coaching staff if the vote is that Juan should be a guy in there someplace, we’re going to try to get him in. And if not, we’ll go with the other guys.”
In Conforto, he is certainly no slouch defensively aside from his miss on Tuesday.
It hasn’t been easy for Conforto at the plate during the postseason, however. He’s just 1-for-20 at the plate, the lone hit being a home run against Zack Greinke in the Division Series.
But Collins had been pleased with Conforto’s offense despite the 1-for-20.
“I know he’s got one hit, but he’s got two or three sacrifice flies, he’s hit the ball hard,” Collins explained about his rookie outfielder. “In Chicago he hit the ball very hard. And he didn’t have anything to show for it.
“As we sat down and we looked at the lineup,” he continued, “you’ve got to kind of block out the batting average and take into consideration the quality of at-bats, how they are, and they’ve been pretty good, and that’s why we’ve kept him in there.”
But with the offense staggering – they’ve hit just .220 through the entire postseason, and that’s with Daniel Murphy’s production – Collins knows he can’t be loyal to simply good swings when sitting in an 0-2 hole in the World Series.
“We’ve got to start getting some production somewhere, so we’re going to take all those things into consideration.”
Certainly without Conforto, the lineup would lack a certain balance top-to-bottom. And they’re facing a right-hander in Yordano Ventura, and lefties have had moderately more success against Ventura than righties – lefties posted a .734 OPS against Ventura in 2015, compared to .658 from righties.
And given Lagares is a right-handed hitter and has had his own struggles against right-handed pitching throughout the season, they may have a better matchup if Conforto is in the lineup and in left field.
As Collins said, it’s just another thing he has to consider when trying to dig his club out from the trenches in this World Series.