Well Thursday night was … kind of a disaster. It was also my birthday! Such is life.
First off, our CMS (content management system) was down for a large part of my news shift. Computers are basically evil, so I guess that’s just an occupational hazard. But if I had a do-over, one thing I would take back from my 27th birthday, I know exactly what it would be. I never would have turned on that endless, soul-sucking Marlins/Mets game.
Heck, if I had picked any other game I’d be sound asleep right now instead of slaving away on this article. At least Miami is on Eastern Standard Time. Can you imagine if I had been sucked into a six-hour game on the West Coast?
I digress, because as much as I hated baseball's version of The English Patient, the game was plenty entertaining. Let’s start with Yoenis Cespedes, who is so hot you should probably be wearing a hazmat suit just reading about him.
Cespedes deposited two more balls over the fence Thursday in the Mets’ 9-8 victory, bringing his season home run total to six. Five of those have come over his last three games. During that span, Cespedes has raised his average from a lowly .154 to a respectable .275. With his two round-trippers Thursday at Marlins Park, Cespedes pulled ahead of Houston’s George Springer for the league lead in home runs. The Mets spent a pretty penny for Yo this offseason (four years, $110 million) but so far, the 31-year-old has proven to be a wise investment.
Thursday’s series opener had the creativity and suspense of a Christopher Nolan film with its layered plot and complex characters. Seriously, how many games can claim to be both a slugfest and a pitcher’s duel?
The early innings were dominated by offense. The Mets scored the only way they know how, by hitting home runs. New York built an early 7-4 lead on the strength of three long balls, two from Cespedes and another by lefty killer Wilmer Flores. But that wasn’t going to be enough on this night.
Just as the Mets blitzed floundering starter Wei-Yin Chen, the Marlins went to work against New York rookie Robert Gsellman. Marcell Ozuna, MLB’s current RBI leader at 16, slugged a first-inning grand slam to give Miami its first four runs of the night. After that, Gsellman held the Marlins in check until the floodgates opened again in the fifth with Miami exploding for four runs to take an 8-7 lead. That score would hold until the eighth when Michael Conforto plated the game-tying run on a double to deep right center.
Let’s shine the light on Conforto for a minute. An unlikely hero if there ever was one, Conforto’s roster spot was in jeopardy as recently as Thursday afternoon. That’s because the Mets had just activated Juan Lagares from the 10-day disabled list. With Lagares ready to resume his role as the Mets’ fourth outfielder, it looked like Conforto was headed back to the minors. Teams often prefer to keep young stars in Triple-A so they can play every day rather than getting lost in the shuffle of the big leagues. But the Mets kept Conforto anyway, instead optioning right-handed reliever Paul Sewald to Triple-A Las Vegas.
Conforto has played sparingly behind starters Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson and Cespedes, but his limited contributions have not gone unnoticed. He’s hit a robust .417 in the early going with two homers and four RBI. Those are head-turning stats but let’s not forget that Conforto got off to a similarly sizzling start last year, generating a remarkable .365 average with 18 RBI in April of 2016. Conforto ran out of ammunition quickly, batting just .148 over the next two months before finally landing back in the minors.
It just goes to show that Conforto is as streaky as they come. Conforto followed up his home run by flying out with two men on in the 10th inning, which extended my night by another couple of hours. If I need two coffees to wake myself up on Friday instead of the usual one, it will be because Conforto failed to put the game away when he had the chance.
Editor’s Note: Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Baseball: Get in the game and create or join a league today.
That concludes the slugfest portion of our program. Now onto the pitcher’s duel. Gsellman and Chen both missed the mark on Thursday night but their bullpens bailed them out in spectacular fashion. The two combatants put on a zero-fest, exchanging clean slates for seven straight innings before the Mets finally eked out the game-winning run during the game’s 16th and final frame.
New York’s bullpen logged an astounding 11 1/3 scoreless innings after Gsellman’s departure including two from closer Addison Reed. Some managers would be hesitant to roll out their closer in a tie game (or let him pitch multiple innings), but Terry Collins called on Reed without hesitation.
Reed was a mediocre closer at previous stops in Chicago and Arizona, but he’s found his niche as a setup man in New York, registering an incredible 1.80 ERA since his arrival late in the 2015 campaign. The right-hander has been handling closer duties in the absence of flamethrower Jeurys Familia, who is still serving a 15-game suspension stemming from an offseason domestic violence arrest. Reed’s fantasy value will disappear when Familia resurfaces, unless you play in a league that counts holds. Regardless, the 28-year-old has certainly established himself as one of the stingier relievers in baseball and a reliable bridge to Familia in the ninth inning.
After downing a Pepsi to stay awake (I’ve sworn off Red Bull and 5-Hour Energy), Travis d’Arnaud rewarded my patience and excessive caffeine intake by launching what would prove to be the game-winning home run off Marlins starter Adam Conley. Yes, Miami’s bullpen was so depleted they had to burn one of their starting pitchers. Expect plenty of roster moves Friday as both teams scour their minor league affiliates for fresh arms.
D’Arnaud’s 16th-inning blast capped an epic night for the 28-year-old. Traditionally a light hitter with non-existent power, d’Arnaud went off for four hits on Thursday and also reached base on a 10th-inning walk. Two of those four hits went for extra bases as d’Arnaud raised his season average by almost 100 points (.238 to .333).
D’Arnaud now has nine RBI for the year. That’s as many as he had in the first half last season. It’s still early but 2017 looks like it could be D’Arnaud’s breakout season. It began in spring training when he ripped the Grapefruit League to shreds with a juicy .333/.423/.533 slash line. It seemed like a fluke at the time but now that his success has carried into the regular season, maybe it’s time for us to buy what d’Arnaud is selling.
The Mets have won five straight and send Noah Syndergaard to the hill Friday night against Marlins vet Edinson Volquez. It’s the same matchup we witnessed Sunday at Citi Field (I was at that game and have the sarcastic tweets to prove it) when the Mets coasted to an easy 5-2 victory. Let’s just hope everyone gets a good night’s sleep.
Editor’s Note: Get our MLB Draft Guide + Season Pass ($39.99 value) for FREE with your first deposit on FanDuel! Click here to claim now.
AL Quick Hits: Todd Frazier sat out for the second game in a row on Thursday but should be back in the lineup this weekend. He’s been battling the flu… The Indians made the difficult decision to send down Tyler Naquin with Lonnie Chisenhall coming off the disabled list on Thursday. Naquin finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting last year after hitting .296 with 14 homers and six steals but he was batting .235 with no home runs or RBI before his demotion… Michael Brantley went deep in Thursday’s loss to the White Sox. The home run was his first since September 10, 2015. That ended a 581-day dry spell for Brantley… With Cleveland trailing by six, the Indians called on utility man Michael Martinez to pitch the ninth inning. He actually fared pretty well, allowing just one hit… Zach Britton nailed down another save Thursday against Toronto, giving him 53 straight dating back to 2015. That’s the third-longest streak in MLB history behind Eric Gagne (84) and Tom Gordon (54), who he has a chance to tie next time out… Carlos Correa has made it known that he will not be signing an early contract extension. The 2015 AL Rookie of the Year won’t be eligible for arbitration until 2019… Josh Donaldson aggravated a calf injury Thursday while running to second base on an RBI double. The 1-8 Blue Jays can ill-afford to lose their best hitter for any amount of time … Greg Bird (back, illness) returned from a four-game absence on Thursday. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in the Yankees’ win over Tampa Bay. Right-hander Luis Severino set a career-high with 11 strikeouts in that game… Mallex Smith exited Thursday’s game with tightness in his right hamstring. Peter Bourjos replaced him in left field… Tigers GM Alex Avila expects J.D. Martinez to be “playing in games” within the next few days. Martinez faced live pitching Wednesday at the team’s spring training facility in Lakewood, Florida. He’s recovering from a Lisfranc sprain he suffered in spring training… Miguel Cabrera homered off Phil Hughes in Thursday’s loss to Minnesota. The solo blast was Cabrera’s first extra-base hit of 2017. He leads all active players with seven homers off Hughes… Sonny Gray (lat) is slated to pitch three innings in a simulated game Monday in Arizona. If that goes well, he’ll advance to a minor league rehab assignment… Andrew Cashner is expected to make his Rangers’ debut Saturday against the Mariners. Cashner has been on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis… Per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, David Price (elbow) is within two weeks of beginning a minor league rehab assignment. Price threw 35 fastballs during Wednesday’s bullpen session and could begin mixing in his other pitches on Saturday… Ken Griffey Jr. was honored with a new statue outside of Safeco Field. The 13-time All-Star was inducted into the Hall of Fame last summer.
NL Quick Hits: Billy Hamilton went 1-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to seven on Thursday. Teammate Zack Cozart kept his eight-game hitting streak intact by going 3-for-3 in a loss to the Brewers… Rich Hill could return to the Dodgers’ rotation Sunday against the Diamondbacks. He’s spent the past week recovering from a blister on his left middle finger… Justin Turner returned to the Dodgers’ lineup following a brief quad injury. He went 1-for-2 on Thursday with a pair of walks... Hector Rondon’s MRI came back clean. He injured his left knee while covering home plate in Wednesday’s loss to the Dodgers. Rondon will rest on Friday but should be available for Saturday’s game.