KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Trailing in the World Series, the New York Mets put a Gold Glove winner in center field for Game 2.
Mets manager Terry Collins tweaked his lineup Wednesday night, starting Juan Lagares and shifting Yoenis Cespedes to left field.
Lagares was set to bat ninth against Kansas City Royals pitcher Johnny Cueto. New York rookie Michael Conforto, who started the opener in left field, was moved to designated hitter, leaving Kelly Johnson on the bench.
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Cespedes and Conforto had a mix-up right off the bat Tuesday night, when Alcides Escobar’s drive to deep left-center ricocheted off Cespedes’ lower right leg and rolled away. Escobar raced around the bases for an inside-the-park home run.
”This has nothing to do with the first play last night,” Collins said. ”The same thing could happen if Juan Lagares was out there.”
On a windy night in Kansas City, Lagares could help shore up New York’s defense in the expansive outfield at Kauffman Stadium. Collins, however, said the decision had more to do with the matchup against Cueto.
”Right-handers hit this guy better,” Collins said. ”Juan is swinging the bat pretty good, so hopefully he can get some hits.”
Lagares won a Gold Glove last year and signed a $23 million, four-year contract in the offseason. But he lost his everyday job this season because of his struggles against right-handed pitching and the addition of Cespedes at the trade deadline.
”When we got Yoenis, he was so hot, somebody had to sit,” Collins said. ”Anytime I talked to (Juan) about it he said, `I’ll be ready. I’ll be ready tonight when you need me.’ And he always has been.”
Indeed, the 26-year-old outfielder has excelled with a part-time role in October.
”It’s come with its difficulties, but like I said before, I stay positive, I work really hard and that way when I get those opportunities where I can kind of try to show my stuff, I don’t take them for granted,” Lagares said through a translator. ”I know what an opportunity it is to show what I’ve got, so they know that I’m ready to go.”
Lagares was batting .438 (7 for 16) with two steals this postseason, and he got off to a great start in the World Series when he came off the bench in Game 1.
He had two hits, including a bunt single, and stole second base before scoring the go-ahead run in the eighth inning. Kansas City tied the game in the ninth and won 5-4 in 14 innings.
”There was definitely a little bit of nerves going out there, but really, it’s just a lot of excitement,” Lagares said. ”I try to stay in the mentality where I’m always ready to go.”
Collins has certainly noticed Lagares’ recent performance.
”When you look back at the last two or three games that he’s played, he’s had as good at-bats as anybody in the lineup,” the manager said. ”Johnny, tough on everybody, but the numbers right-handed hitters have against him are a lot better than lefties. This is a perfect opportunity to see if Juan can stay hot, because we need him.”