Wilmer Flores is doing quite well in place of David Wright. Another productive performance could help the Mets win their first road series against the Diamondbacks in over five years Sunday.
The Mets (53-61) were dealt a major blow earlier this month when Wright was placed on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring, potentially knocking their best hitter out for the rest of the season.
Flores has unexpectedly helped lessen the impact of the All-Star third baseman’s absence. The 22-year-old rookie from Venezuela is just 4 for 19 while New York has won four of five since he was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas. However, he’s collected eight RBIs while notching at least one in each of the past four contests.
“I’m still shaking a little bit,” Flores told the team’s official website. “I try to control myself a little bit, and I think it’s working.”
It certainly did Saturday, when he drove in three runs on two hits to spark a 4-1 win over the D-backs (59-56) after the Mets dropped the opener of this three-game set 5-4 on a walkoff homer from Paul Goldschmidt.
“He doesn’t strike out. I’m sure he will one of these days, but he puts the bat on the ball,” manager Terry Collins said of Flores, who hit .321 with 86 RBIs for Las Vegas.
While Flores is coming up with key hits, fellow rookie Juan Lagares is enjoying his own impressive stretch at the plate. The center fielder is hitting .329 in 23 games since the All-Star break and .359 over the last 10 on the road. He has three hits in this series, including a solo homer Saturday.
New York is in position to win a series at Chase Field for the first time since taking two of three from May 2-4, 2008.
The Mets are expected to activate left-hander Jonathon Niese (3-6, 4.32 ERA) from the disabled list and give him his first start since June 20. A partially torn rotator cuff forced him to exit that outing at Atlanta with one out in the fourth after allowing three runs and eight hits.
Niese, who is expected to be on a strict pitch count, yielded three earned runs and nine hits while striking out 11 in 11 innings over three minor league rehabilitation starts.
Returning against the Diamondbacks may not be ideal since Niese is 1-2 with a 6.85 ERA in four career starts. He’s been tagged for 11 runs and 15 hits — including three homers — over 11 innings in two outings in Phoenix.
Goldschmidt, who has career highs of 27 homers and 91 RBIs, is batting .196 with 19 strikeouts over his last 15 games. He has, however, homered on six of his last 11 hits while driving in 11 runs.
Zeke Spruill (0-1, 6.48) is scheduled to get another turn in the rotation in place of Trevor Cahill, who is nearing a return from a hip injury. The rookie didn’t fare well in his first career start Aug. 1, surrendering five runs and three homers in four innings of a 7-1 loss at Texas. He doesn’t think the long layoff will be a problem.
“I’ll be fine, really,” Spruill told the team’s official website. “I’m just worried about getting into better pitcher’s counts, not falling behind. I want to throw my breaking ball and changeup a lot more consistently in the strike zone, too.”