Michael Conforto wasn’t in the mood to wait when he came to the plate as a pinch-hitter Saturday night after sitting for nearly seven innings.
Mason Thompson, who had just been called up to pitch for the Nationals, lifted a sinker that Conforto crushed over the left-field fence, providing a rare jolt of energy to Citi Field on these dreary days.
Conforto’s three-run homer gave the Mets a 5-3 victory over the Nationals, snapping a four-game losing streak. Conforto’s ninth home run of the season came at home for the first time since the All-Star break.
“That’s the hit we have been waiting for,” said Conforto, who pumped his fist as he rounded the bases. “That’s the one we, unfortunately, haven’t gotten the last week or so, but I can tell you in those spots we believe in our guys. We believe we are going to come through. It just hasn’t happened in the last couple of weeks.”
The Mets (62-67) had only scored five runs in their previous four games, so this outburst could have easily been a ten-run outburst. It came just hours after the team retired former pitcher Jerry Koosman’s No. 36 during a pregame ceremony.
With the Mets trailing 3-2, Jeff McNeil led off the seventh inning with a single against Ryne Harper, and Kevin Pillar (who had already homered twice) was hit by a pitch. Following a failed bunt attempt by Patrick Mazeika, right-hander Thompson entered to face Conforto, who was not in the starting lineup against left-hander Sean Nolin. Conforto’s pinch-hit homer was his first of the season.
“It’s no secret [left-center] is where I go when I am feeling the best,” Conforto said. “It’s kind of what I came up doing. That one felt a little extra special just because it was over there in that little basket in front of the wall. I have been working to try to do that all year, but sometimes it takes a little longer.”
Seth Lugo and Edwin Diaz each pitched a scoreless inning to keep the lead. Diaz made his 26th save out of 30 attempts.
The Mets were able to reclaim the game they had lost the night before to the Braves in the standings. Despite this, the Mets are down 7 12 games in the NL East after a 7-19 August in which their lineup sputtered.
Riley Adams scored on a wild pitch after leading off the seventh inning with a single, giving the Nationals a 3-2 lead over Trevor May. May had not given up a run in his previous five starts.
In the fifth inning, Pillar’s second home run of the night tied the game at 2-2 against Nolin. Pillar, who started in right field to provide an extra right-handed bat in the lineup against Nolin, hit his second multi-homer game of the season. Pillar also hit a home run to start the third inning.
“I have been working hard on my swing and feel like I have been swinging at good pitches over the last couple of weeks,” Pillar said. “I just haven’t been getting some good results and sometimes you have got to throttle down a little bit and just try to find the good part of the bat, and I got rewarded today. I got a little smaller and compact and was able to hit two homers today.”
In their attempt to score runs, the Mets were active on the bases. To end the third inning, Jonathan Villar was caught trying to steal second, and Francisco Lindor successfully swiped second in the fourth, but was left stranded by Pete Alonso and Javier Baez. Lindor also stole second and was left stranded in the sixth inning.
Marcus Stroman pitched a second straight six-inning shutout for the Mets, this time allowing two runs. With seven hits and one walk allowed, the right-hander was pulled after 91 pitches. In four of his last five starts, Stroman has allowed two earned runs or fewer, a stretch during which his ERA has risen slightly, from 2.80 to 2.85.
After walking Luis Garcia to start the inning, Stroman gave up two runs in the second. The Nationals took a 1-0 lead on Lane Thomas’ RBI double before adding another run on Alcides Escobar’s single, which came after Mazeika’s passed ball.
Following Thomas’ leadoff double, Stroman loaded the bases in the first inning, but escaped by striking out Yadiel Hernandez and retiring Carter Kiebom.
“It was a great overall team win,” Conforto said. “Hopefully we can make it the start of something special.”