NEW YORK -- In the end, a minor hand injury wound up making Mickey Callaway's decision for him. With pitcher Corey Oswalt due up and the potential go-ahead run on base in the fifth inning of New York's 6-4 victory over the Padres at Citi Field on Wednesday afternoon, the
NEW YORK -- In the end, a minor hand injury wound up making Mickey Callaway's decision for him. With pitcher Corey Oswalt due up and the potential go-ahead run on base in the fifth inning of New York's 6-4 victory over the Padres at Citi Field on Wednesday afternoon, the Mets manager had little choice but to turn to a pinch-hitter in an attempt to win the game.
Yet on the day the Mets announced that star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes will undergo season-ending heel surgery, the choice stood at odds with the team's commitment to the future. As they spend the next few months deciding whether to embark upon a multiyear rebuild, the Mets must decide what is more important: winning games or developing young players such as Oswalt.
Given chances to do the latter on Wednesday, the Mets instead focused on winning at any cost. The result was their first series win since May 18-20 against the D-backs, with Oswalt lasting just long enough to pick up his first career victory.
"It was special, especially against them," said Oswalt, a Southern California native who grew up a Padres fan. "Everybody back home was watching this one definitely. It was a good team win."
Working quickly through the game's first five innings, Oswalt cracked for a run in the second inning, and an Austin Hedges solo homer in the fifth that outfielder Brandon Nimmo caught, but only after it caromed off of the wall above the home run line. The Mets were trailing by one when Oswalt's spot in the batting order came up in the bottom of that inning, with two men on base and one out.
In his previous at-bat, Oswalt had jammed his hand, making the Mets' decision easy: Rather than let Oswalt take his hacks, Callaway turned to pinch-hitter Phillip Evans, who cracked a game-tying single to left. The next batter, Amed Rosario, hit a two-run single, giving the Mets a lead they would not relinquish. But Callaway indicated that even if Oswalt were not injured -- the right-hander should be fine by his next start -- he would have erred on the side of going for the win.
"There's going to be 50 factors on why we make a decision like that," Callaway said. "Today, we probably would have done what we did because we had a guy off the bench that's been hitting lefties pretty good. … Oswalt, as good as he has been, is still a young kid, and we have to make sure that we take care of him as well."
In another nod toward the present, not the future, Callaway started veteran infielder Jose Reyes at third base over Jeff McNeil, who walked in his lone plate appearance as a pinch-hitter in the seventh. Another veteran, Jose Bautista, hit a two-run homer off Padres starter Clayton Richard in the sixth.
"Good homestand," Callaway said. "Taking two out of three is nice, and I think that's a stepping stone to where we want to get."
Going forward, the Mets will not always be so committed to the present. After announcing Cespedes' surgery on Wednesday morning, assistant general manager John Ricco admitted that the news could affect the way the Mets build their team this offseason and beyond. But for now, New York appears committed to Reyes, Bautista and others -- even at the expense of playing time for their younger teammates.
"You still have to manage the game, obviously," Callaway said, "and try to win a game."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
With Jeurys Familia traded to the A's, Robert Gsellman figured to receive most of the save chances down the stretch for the Mets. But on Wednesday, Callaway decided to use Gsellman in a higher-leverage spot, with the potential tying run at bat in a two-run game in the seventh. Following a walk of pinch-hitter Cory Spangenberg, Gsellman retired the next two batters without issue.
Anthony Swarzak followed with a two-inning save, striking out three and allowing one hit.
"We have to get creative," Callaway said of his bullpen. "I think we could use guys in high-leverage situations to kind of snuff things out when we need to. We've got guys that can go multiple innings if we need to. … That's the way we've got to do it with our personnel."
Bautista's home run was the 339th of his career, matching Tino Martinez, Dave Parker and Boog Powell for 99th on the all-time list. Only five active players have more homers than Bautista: Jose Pujols, Adrian Beltre, Jose Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion and Nelson Cruz.
HE SAID IT
"That's awesome, because that's been a struggle for us. … For us to win a series, and come up with some big hits there, and come from behind, it's been really positive. That's fun. That's impressive. And it gives us confidence going forward." -- Nimmo, on the Mets' first series win since May 18-20
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The degree of difficulty on Nimmo's catch in the fifth inning was high. But ultimately it didn't count, as a replay review showed that Hedges' ball caromed off the left-field fence, above the orange home run line, before settling into Nimmo's glove. Originally ruled out, Hedges trotted around the bases with a homer.
"I just went up for it, and then I heard the ball hit the -- I guess it's kind of like a metal, I'm not sure what kind of metal -- but a little metal piece right above the orange line," Nimmo said. "All I knew was that I had the ball in my glove, so I was just like, 'Well, I'm going to play it like I caught it.' I know they have replay, so I know they'll check it. But all I knew was I jumped up and the ball ended up in my glove, so I was just going to go with that for as long as they would let me."
The Mets head to Pittsburgh to begin a four-game series on Thursday at PNC Park, with Steven Matz starting the 7:05 p.m. ET opener for New York. Matz is 0-3 in his past three starts. McNeil should get his first chance in the starting lineup, and he will face Pirates right-hander Nick Kingham.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.