WASHINGTON -- The story of Brandon Nimmo's career -- excellent when healthy, but often not healthy -- continued Saturday with an ill-timed injury as the Mets try to work their way back into serious playoff contention. Between games of a doubleheader at Nationals Park, the Mets placed Nimmo on the 10-day injured list with a strained right hamstring, recalling infielder Travis Blankenhorn to take his roster spot.
Nimmo injured his leg while hustling on a routine groundout to end the second inning of the Mets' 11-9, extra-innings win over the Nationals in Game 1 Saturday. New York immediately removed him from the game, replacing him with Albert Almora Jr.
“Those are all the things that were racing through my head right after it happened -- just how much it sucks to be on the sidelines and not be able to help the team out when I know I could and had been,” Nimmo said. “I am very upset about it, but I’m just going to have to try to be the best cheerleader that I can be.”
Although neither Nimmo nor manager Luis Rojas were willing to count the veteran outfielder out for the rest of the season, he is likely to miss most of it. Hamstring strains tend to take several weeks to heal, and barely four weeks remain in the regular season. Nimmo said that “in my heart of hearts, I do really think” a return is possible. The question is even if he is successful in meeting that goal, how much season will remain once he does.
“It’s unfortunate right now … but still, we’ve got to see how he responds,” Rojas said. “This is a guy that takes a lot of care of himself. He’s one of the first guys to the field. He’s one of the last guys leaving, because of how much he does to keep himself out there on the playing field.”
No matter how much time Nimmo misses, it's a significant blow to the Mets, who have relied on him as a sparkplug at the top of their lineup. In 77 games, Nimmo was slashing .302/.420/.415 with five home runs and five stolen bases. He spent most of the season batting leadoff before more recently sliding to the No. 2 hole behind Jonathan Villar. Over the past four seasons, only Mike Trout and Juan Soto have posted a higher on-base percentage than Nimmo (.402).
But injuries have been Nimmo’s bugaboo. Earlier this season, he missed two months due to a torn ligament in his left index finger. Nimmo also lost significant time in 2019 due to a bulging cervical disk in his neck. His 77 games this year are the second-most he’s ever compiled in a single season.
“This one’s extremely frustrating for me because I do try to take a lot of pride in the way that I take care of my body,” Nimmo said. “Hydration, nutrition, weightlifting, training -- all that stuff, and spending extra time at the field after to try and do that stuff. But somewhere along the way, I went wrong.”
In Nimmo’s absence, Kevin Pillar figures to pick up significant playing time in center field, with Almora filling in on occasion. Eighth-ranked prospect Khalil Lee is also capable of playing the position, but he doesn’t figure to factor much into the Mets’ September plans.
“We need probably a guy like Kevin Pillar to step up,” Rojas said, referencing the veteran’s recent 6-for-12 stretch at the plate, including a homer in Game 2 of the doubleheader. “He’s been swinging the bat good lately. Maybe he can come in and play a little more center now and be a part of this offense as well.”