MINNEAPOLIS — It’s a sign of an impressive night when a player is asked whether he values his offensive or defense performance in a win more.
Michael Conforto had that question presented to him after Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Twins that featured four hits, including the game-winning RBI single in the fifth inning, and a run-saving catch to rob Nelson Cruz of an RBI in the third.
“It’s got to be the go-ahead hit,” Conforto said. “The weak one found a hole over there. Maybe a couple weeks ago I don’t stay on that ball long enough to poke it the other way. The fact it gave us the lead is huge as well.”
Conforto’s performance Tuesday showcased why he can be one of the best outfields in the majors when he’s going well. He’s a threat at the plate, and though he may never win a Gold Glove, he’s a perfectly capable outfielder.
When Conforto is hot, he can carry a lineup.
His night began with two singles, one which led to a run, but his most important at-bat came in the fifth in a 2-all game.
After MLB’s batting leader, Jeff McNeil, fanned against Michael Pineda, with a runner on third and one out, Conforto attacked the first pitch.
The book on Conforto is he does not attack first pitches, but he’s been doing so more often lately. He hit an excuse-me grounder to the left side that got by third baseman Miguel Sano, and shortstop Jorge Polanco was too far shifted to the right to make a play. That run held up thanks to five scoreless innings from the bullpen.
“The idea is to be aggressive in the zone regardless of what’s been happening. I have been getting a lot of first-pitch strikes where it’s a fastball or breaking ball and I’ve been hitting from behind and pitchers will go out of the zone after that,” Conforto said. “The idea is to be aggressive in the zone and aggressive to pitches I know I have a good shot of hitting hard. Not get myself in an 0-1, 0-2 hole. Not going to go up and swing at every pitch. If it’s in the zone, I have to be ready.”
A 59-mph RBI single may not be the most aesthetically pleasing hit even if it gets the job done, but his run-saving catch certainly impressed the crowd of 28, 712.
Conforto, who is not a natural center fielder, raced to track down Cruz’s long drive that died just short of the wall in left-center. Conforto jumped to catch the ball and held on after crashing into the wall to preserve the Mets’ 2-1 lead.
Marwin Gonzalez likely scores from first on that play, and considering the final score, that play may have won the game.
“It was awesome,” said Mets starter Steven Matz, who gave up that long fly out to Cruz. “Ball kept carrying out there, I wasn’t sure if it’d stay in the park or not. Michael made a great play on it. It was cool to see that.”