Mets end skid, beat Nats on Conforto’s first pinch-hit homer

NEW YORK (AP) — Michael Conforto hit a go-ahead, three-run drive in the seventh inning for his first career pinch-hit homer and the struggling New York Mets beat the Washington Nationals 5-3 on Saturday night.

Conforto helped end New York’s four-game skid and stopped a 3-for-19 slump of his own by connecting with the first pitch he got from Mason Thompson.

The 28-year-old Conforto was on the bench Saturday for the second time in three games due to a .218 average this season after batting a career-best .322 in 2020. Normally low key, he pumped his right fist as he rounded first base after the homer and again in between first and second, then exchanged enthusiastic elbow bashes with teammates once he touched home.

“I can tell you in those spots, we believe in our guys, we believe that they’re going to come through, just hasn’t happened over the last couple weeks,” Conforto said. “So to come through in that spot for my team, coming off the bench and just trying to stay ready, that’s where the emotion comes from.”

The left-handed hitting Conforto was benched against southpaw Sean Nolin in favor of Kevin Pillar, who entered Saturday hitting .159 with two homers since June 28 but homered in the third and tied it with another solo shot in the fifth. It was the second multihomer game of the season for Pillar and the sixth of his career.

“The hitting coaches actually recommended him in the lineup tonight and (he) responded really well,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “I’m glad that Michael was ready to come in whenever the situation arose.”

Pillar’s insertion into the lineup was just part of a thorough shuffling by Rojas as he tried to ignite a long-dormant offense. Brandon Nimmo batted second, only the second time this season he’s batted somewhere other than first. Jonathan Villar batted leadoff and had two hits.

Francisco Lindor, the usual no. 2 hitter, batted third, and Jeff McNeil made his second start of the season in left field and batted sixth.

The five runs scored by the remade lineup matched the Mets’ offensive output from the previous four games combined. This was the seventh time they’ve scored more than four runs in a game this month, a chief reason the club is 7-19 in August and 7 1/2 games behind NL East-leading Atlanta.

“I did like the lineup,” Rojas said. “I liked the sequencing.”

The three homers by the Mets were their most since Aug. 7 and just the fourth time this month they’ve gone deep more than once.

“It’s a helluva lot easier to score in this league when you’re able to hit home runs, hit extra-base hits,” Pillar said.

Conforto’s homer made a winner of Trevor May (6-2), who uncorked a wild pitch in the seventh that allowed Riley Adams to score and give the Nationals a 3-2 lead.

Ryne Harper (0-1) got one out in the seventh and was charged with two runs after giving way to Thompson.

“In that situation, Conforto, he’s coming off the bench swinging,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “You kind of want to make the pitcher’s pitch, you really do, and he was trying to get a ground ball right there.”

Edwin Díaz pitched the ninth for his 26th save.

Lane Thomas and Alcides Escobar had RBI singles in the second off Marcus Stroman.

Escobar finished with three hits and a stolen base. Thomas and Josh Bell had two hits each.

Stroman allowed two runs on seven hits with one walk and five strikeouts in six innings. Nationals starter Sean Nolin gave up two runs on six hits and walked none while striking out six in 5 1/3 innings — his longest outing since Sept. 12, 2015, when he was pitching for the Oakland Athletics.

FOR KOOZ

Jerry Koosman became the fifth player or coach to have his jersey retired by the Mets, with his No. 36 unveiled alongside placard’s honoring Mike Piazza, Tom Seaver, Gil Hodges and Casey Stengel before the game.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Nationals: C Alex Avila (bilateral calf strains) went 0 for 3 in his first rehab game for the Nationals’ complex league affiliate. Manager Dave Martinez said Avila would need to catch six or seven innings in back-to-back games before being recalled.

Mets: IF Luis Guillorme (left hamstring) went 0 for 2 in his second rehab game for Triple-A Syracuse. … C James McCann (back) caught a bullpen session and ran prior to Saturday’s game. … OF Jose Martinez, who was rehabbing a left knee injury with Triple-A Syracuse, will be examined by Mets doctors after hyperextending his left shoulder while taking a swing in a game Thursday.

UP NEXT

Nationals: RHP Erick Fedde (6-8, 4.91 ERA) will look to win a third straight start, matching a career-best set Aug. 5-18, 2019.

Mets: RHP Tylor Megill (1-3, 4.07 ERA) is 0-3 with a 7.03 ERA in five starts this month.

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