The new look outfield avoided a Dodgers sweep over the Mets

Rich Mancuso

There was a new look in the outfield for the New York Mets Thursday night at Citi Field. That worked out well as the Mets avoided a sweep by the Los Angeles Dodgers and stopped a three-game losing streak with a 5-3 win.  Juan Lagares appears to have his spot again in center and Curtis Granderson remained in right-field.

But manager Terry Collins unveiled Eric Campbell in left and after his first start it may be difficult to keep Campbell out of the lineup.

With a good defensive night in the outfield and a first inning sacrifice fly, Collins alluded to playing Campbell in the infield or providing insurance as a backup catcher. Anything, to help this Mets team, that continues to find a formula for success will work for Collins at this point.

Granderson showed some improvement at the plate with some good at bats. The Lagares controversy of being out of the lineup last week is a distant memory. He continues to show range in the outfield and had the go-ahead RBI in the seventh inning with a single to right that drove in Wilmer Flores.

Collins continues to be impressed with Lagares. He said he can be as good if not better than another former Met in the outfield, the Milwaukee Brewers Carlos Gomez. And in due time, Lagares can be the equivalent of Gomez, the one-time Mets product who was a part of a three-player trade with Minnesota that brought pitcher Johan Santana to the Mets.

“Young guys are making a contribution, they are here and more are on the way,” Collins said.

Lagares is one of those youngsters and he can only get better. Campbell, 26-years of age, who almost made the team out of spring training, hit his first career home run Wednesday night.  He has the power and before his recall from Triple-A Las Vegas on May 10 was hitting over .300.

There has been that lack of punch and power from this Mets lineup this first quarter of the season. Campbell can provide the punch, but where does he play? First base was the original plan but Collins gave him a chance at the outfield spot Thursday night. Shortstop, second or even catching could be in his future.

Said Collins, who is looking for any type of combination that will provide a catalyst for wins:  “I’m going to play this guy in the middle of the infield one of these days, too, because if he can play there, he’s got a chance to get a lot of at-bats.”

He gave his analysis, and as always never put down any player that has not been productive. “Why not? If he’s athletic enough to play there, we’ve got to find out. He played there in Vegas. He played second a lot of games. He played short twice. I’m not going to put him out there in the ninth but run him out there in a game that maybe is a little lopsided."

And possibly Campbell gets more playing time in the outfield to go along with his .368 average in his first eight games in the big leagues. He made a spectacular diving catch in the eighth inning that got Yasiel Puig off second base resulting in a double-play as the Mets retained their lead.

“I can handle it,” Campbell said when questioned about his possible future role to keep him in the lineup. “I’m confident that I played enough second in Vegas this year where I’d be comfortable out there. Short, I haven’t played a whole lot. But I’m sure it’d be fine. It’s just fielding a groundball and throwing it to first.”

And as a backup catcher, he was put in that role as an emergency backup when Travis d’Arnaud went down with a concussion. And about that catch?  “Off the bat I thought it was going to be a one-hopper so I was charging it hard, trying to make a play at the plate, because that’s the tying run. I guess he hit it too well. It stayed up a little bit longer and I was able to get my glove under it.”  

Puig, he said, was in his radar the minute he hit the ball. “As it always goes, you put a guy in for his offense and his defense saves the game,” said Collins. “That’s always a sign that you were supposed to win that game.”

That is so much like the play Lagares offers in the outfield who finished with 15 assists from his perch last season in his rookie year, third most in baseball and a franchise record.

So, the newcomers, or the youngsters made an impact Thursday night in what was also a story of adventure for the Dodgers in the outfield. And there were some other blunders by the Mets that in the end did not cost them. As long as the combinations work for Collins and the pitching stays respectable, there can be some hope.

Granderson had a double and triple in three at bats. Wilmer Flores continues to grow at shortstop, got a hit and struck out twice. Where does that leave Ruben Tejada? For now he is the backup and Tejada said he will do his best to stay sharp on the bench.

Oh, one other equation to this new formula of players at Citi Field. Jennry Mejia recorded his second save with a scoreless ninth inning and worked back-to-back nights. He has not issued a walk and struck out six as a reliever.  It appeared to be easy work, and the Mets may finally have their closer without Bobby Parnell.

 Better days ahead for Collins and the Mets? A lot of season left to go but for one night the youngsters and the new combination offered some hope.

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