PHILADELPHIA (AP) Michael Conforto has yet to have a fan section at Citi Field named in his honor, nor can he stake claim to the hottest selling jersey in baseball.
But without the national hype, it’s gone a bit hidden that Conforto’s numbers have powered closer to New York Yankees phenom Aaron Judge.
Who’s better? Well, fans can, yes, judge for themselves when the young New York sluggers try and go homer-to-homer this week in the Subway Series.
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”I look at that as kind of a distraction,” Conforto said. ”I’m just going to stay focused on playing the best I can, executing and not worry about all that stuff. Just go out there and try and beat him.”
Conforto and Curtis Granderson hit two-run homers to lead the New York Mets over the Philadelphia Phillies 6-2 on Sunday.
The Mets continue to roll past their NL East rival, improving to 35-16 since the start of the 2015 season. Conforto and Granderson gave the Mets 96 homers over that span in the series to Philadelphia’s 38.
The Mets won three of four against the Phillies and headed back to New York for what will be the biggest games they’ll play in what has turned into a lost season – four Subway Series matchups, albeit one without that Piazza vs. Clemens buzz.
”The young players, when they walk into Yankee Stadium tomorrow, it’s going to be a new experience for them,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. ”If they’re going to play and learn how to play championship caliber, they’re going to have to learn how to play in that atmosphere.”
Conforto, 24, thrived in that type of atmosphere as a rookie in 2015 when he homered twice in Game 5 of the World Series against Kansas City. He has 26 homers this season and hit 12 since the All-Star break. Judge has 35 home runs and was the All-Star Home Run Derby champion, but has gone deep just once in August headed into Sunday’s game against Boston.
”For him to have that first half was incredible,” Conforto said. ”I don’t think anybody saw that coming but it was something that was fun to watch.”
Mets fans surely found a Philly baserunning blunder pretty amusing, too.
Mets starter Chris Flexen (2-1) loaded the bases in the fifth inning with no outs and Nick Williams at the plate. Williams was retired on a shallow fly to center field and Conforto’s throw home scooted away from Travis d’Arnaud. Odubel Herrera put his head down and sprinted for third, unaware Freddy Galvis hadn’t moved off the base. D’Arnaud hustled to third to complete a short toss and an 8-2-5 double play.
Herrera, who has put up some of the top offensive numbers in the major leagues since June, has become one of the more polarizing athletes in recent Philly sports history. His bat-flipping and careless baserunning have earned him fan scorn, benchings and a team fine.
”I know I’m little over aggressive sometimes. I definitely have to be smarter on the bases I know that,” he said. ”I want to keep my aggressiveness.”
Herrera’s mistake was compounded on a wild pitch that scored Galvis and cut New York’s lead to 4-2. But Yoenis Cespedes, who homered in each of the last two games, getting a day off, the rest of the Mets picked up the offensive slack. They scored two more in the seventh for a 6-2 lead and gave them at least six runs in three of the four games. The Mets have won 17 of 20 series against Philadelphia.
Flexen allowed two runs, struck out five and allowed six hits in the best outing of his four career starts.
Zach Eflin (1-4) allowed Conforto’s 26th homer and Granderson’s 17th, striking out five in 5 1/3 innings.
The Mets promoted RHP Kevin McGowan from Triple-A Las Vegas. McGowan was 5-4 with four saves and a 4.06 ERA with Las Vegas. He replaced second baseman Neil Walker, who was traded to Milwaukee on Saturday night.
Herrera singled in the first inning to extend his hitting streak to 16 games. Herrera has the longest season hit streak for the Phillies since Raul Ibanez’s 18 straight in 2010. He was booed the rest of his at-bats following his error on the basepaths and fans yelled at him that he should go back to the minors.
”I prefer to say that he’s more positive than negative, and if you look back on the last six, seven weeks, he has not made many mistakes,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said.
The Phillies honored more than 40 former players as part of the alumni weekend festivities. Del Unser celebrated more than 50 years in professional baseball with a ceremonial first-pitch strike to Bob Boone.
Mets: RHP Rafael Montero (1-8, 6.06 ERA) starts Monday at Yankee Stadium.
Phillies: The Phillies start a seven-game West Coast trip Monday night in San Diego, sending RHP Jerad Eickhoff (3-7) to the mound against LHP Travis Wood (2-4, 6.71 ERA).
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