NEW YORK -- When Yoenis Cespedes initially hit the baseball, he seemed frustrated with the result: a fly ball destined for foul ground, or Brett Gardner's glove, or both. But as Cespedes jogged toward first, the ball offered a long-lost reminder of his strength, clanging off the left-field foul pole for a solo homer.
The run was the Mets' fourth in a 7-5 win over the Yankees on Friday -- Cespedes' first night back from a nine-and-a-half-week stay on the disabled list.
His return gave the Mets equal measures hope and worry; after their victory, Cespedes said he can trace his leg problems to calcification in both heels, which may require surgery. If Cespedes undergoes the procedure, he could miss eight to 10 months.
"When I feel pain in my heels, I start modifying the way I walk, the way I run, even the way I stand," Cespedes said through an interpreter. "That is the main cause of the problems in my legs."
For now at least, Cespedes is healthy enough to contribute, which he did with a leadoff homer in the third inning against Yankees starter Domingo German. Cespedes also walked and scored in the fifth inning, and singled in the sixth as the Mets' designated hitter.
"Today," Cespedes said, "I felt well."
But not everything went well for the Mets. Pitching with a five-run lead in the fifth inning, Noah Syndergaard -- who missed seven weeks this season due to a strained right index finger -- began losing enough arm strength for manager Mickey Callaway and a member of the training staff to meet him on the mound. Although Syndergaard finished the inning at 84 pitches, allowing one run, he departed with his fastball velocity flagging in the low to mid-90s. The Mets said afterward that he was suffering from fatigue.
"I might be a little bit down, but I think it's just a little dead arm," Syndergaard said. "Nothing to be alarmed about."
The Mets took an early lead on a trio of RBI doubles off German in the first, then extended it with a two-run rally in the fifth. That was enough to thwart the Yankees' comeback attempt against Seth Lugo, who escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh, and Robert Gsellman.
It was the type of offensive output the Mets hope to see more often with Cespedes, who has played in less than half their games since signing a four-year, $110 million contract prior to last season. Entering Spring Training, the Mets hoped an offseason full of flexibility training would allow Cespedes to avoid the hamstring and quad injuries that have plagued him in the past. But Cespedes began feeling quad soreness again early this season, playing through it until he exacerbated the injury in mid-May.
His rehab wound up taking more than nine weeks, during which time the Mets developed an hours-long pregame routine that they hope will keep Cespedes' muscles limber. The team went as far as to use Cespedes at first base during his final Minor League rehab game, believing that position could be less demanding on his legs.
Cespedes' admission that he may need surgery complicates that situation, adding another layer to his injury issues.
"You just keep looking for every different way you can in terms of maybe modifying his schedule, both pregame and also in terms of how much he plays and where he plays -- all those things are on the table," assistant general manager John Ricco said. "He has had some injury issues of late. The performance team is trying to look at it from every different way to keep him on the field."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Substitute closer: As the Mets batted with a one-run lead in the top off the ninth, closer Jeurys Familia sat on the bullpen bench wearing a hooded sweatshirt. Callaway was told midway through the game not to use Familia, who was the subject of advanced trade talks between the Mets and A's. Instead, Gsellman worked around a two-out walk to complete a two-inning save.
Syndergaard's strikeout of Neil Walker to end the fourth inning was the 500th of his career, making him the fastest in franchise history to 500 strikeouts in terms of innings pitched. Tom Seaver holds the franchise record with 2,541 strikeouts as a Met. The only active Mets pitcher with more strikeouts than Syndergaard is Jacob deGrom (880).
"It's a great feat to be a part of," Syndergaard said. "It's a great feeling."
HE SAID IT
"It's not something that I think people have the wrong idea. I am sure it is like that. I found some things on social media, and honestly I don't care, but it shows people don't know how hard I worked to get back here." -- Cespedes, on his long recovery
Cespedes should DH again on Saturday when the Mets return to Yankee Stadium for a 1:05 p.m. ET matinee, looking to support Steven Matz. Matz, who posted a 2.91 ERA in his final 13 first-half starts, will oppose Yankees right-hander Sonny Gray.