ATLANTA -- Yoenis Cespedes, in his own words, is "lost" at the plate. Since April 8, Cespedes has struck out in 44 percent of his plate appearances, including four whiffs in his first five trips to the plate on Friday. He is batting .200 over that stretch. He leads the
ATLANTA -- Yoenis Cespedes, in his own words, is "lost" at the plate. Since April 8, Cespedes has struck out in 44 percent of his plate appearances, including four whiffs in his first five trips to the plate on Friday. He is batting .200 over that stretch. He leads the Major Leagues in strikeouts. Unsure quite how to emerge from this, Cespedes is even considering picking up golf, a hobby he swore off late last season.
With that as a backdrop, Mets manager Mickey Callaway keeps sticking Cespedes in his starting lineup. Why wouldn't he? Even at the depths of his struggles, Cespedes has found a way to contribute, singling home the go-ahead run in the 12th inning on Friday to lift the Mets to a 5-3 win over the Braves at SunTrust Park. It was Cespedes' third go-ahead hit in that same 12-game stretch that has seen him struggle so deeply.
"I don't think he worries about what's happened," Callaway said. "He just comes here to play baseball. You can tell he loves it. And that approach usually ends up working out in the long run."
Unable to convert on earlier rallies, the Mets received a spark when Braves reliever Josh Ravin hit Robert Gsellman with a pitch to open the 12th. Gsellman moved to second on a bunt, then scored when Cespedes grounded a single into right field. One batter later, Asdrubal Cabrera added an insurance run with an RBI double.
Already sporting two shutout innings on his ledger, Gsellman gave way to Jeurys Familia, who pitched a perfect bottom of the 12th for the save.
"I just try to focus myself, and forget about whatever happened before," Cespedes said of his knack for collecting key RBIs despite the slump. "I just tried to hit the ball, and that's what I did."
In the past, when faced with slumps, Cespedes would rise early, grab his golf clubs and head to a local course in whatever city the Mets happened to be in. Golfing, Cespedes says, helped him establish the muscle memory of keeping his hands tight to his body, preventing his shoulder from flying open during baseball swings.
But when a photographer spotted Cespedes playing while nursing a quadriceps injury two years ago, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson called it "bad optics." A year later, Cespedes vowed to quit. For the first time in his career, he is instead watching video of his at-bats, trying to visualize the mechanical tweaks he used to make on the course.
Cespedes doesn't feel it's working; frustrated by his slump, Cespedes says he is considering playing golf again -- something the Mets won't mind if it coincides with an increase in his production. For most of Friday's win, they again relied on other players, turning an Amed Rosario RBI double, a Michael Conforto sacrifice fly and a Wilmer Flores run-scoring single into a 3-2 lead for Noah Syndergaard.
But Syndergaard, who allowed his first run on an Ozzie Albies homer in the first inning, gave back the lead on a Ryan Flaherty RBI double in the fourth inning and a Kurt Suzuki sac fly in the sixth. The Mets and Braves traded zeros for five more innings before Cespedes came through in the 12th.
"I'm kind of disappointed and frustrated with how I've been throwing ever since the season started," said Syndergaard, who received a no-decision. "I feel like I've had some pretty dominant stuff but haven't done much dominating."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Gsellman became the first pitcher to earn the win and score the game-winning run in extra innings since Matt Albers two years ago. In addition to scoring after Ravin brushed his jersey with a pitch to lead off the 12th, Gsellman delivered two shutout innings, striking out Preston Tucker with two men on base and two outs in the 11th.
"It was a great team win," Gsellman said. "It was fun to be out there on the bases and run."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Mets catchers were 0-for-21 attempting to throw out basestealers before Tomas Nido nailed Flaherty at second base in the seventh inning, ensuring Flaherty's leadoff walk would result in no damage. Although the Mets had caught two prior basestealers, both were the result of pitcher pickoff throws to first base. No other Major League team entered Friday with more than 15 stolen bases against it.
"It's awesome to get that speed off those bases," Nido said. "It definitely feels really good. And to help out the team feels really good."
HE SAID IT
"I'm definitely the fastest pitcher. … Noah's not even close." -- Gsellman, who scored from second base on Cespedes' single
"He actually said that? He mentioned my name? He's not the fastest pitcher. That's a joke for him to say that. I'm going to have to reprimand him tonight, make him sit there for a little bit, make him think about what he's done. Send him to his room. Take away his Christmas presents." -- Syndergaard
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Twice in three innings, Flores made an out on the bases. The second of those instances occurred in the sixth, when Flores attempted to score from first on Jay Bruce's double (which snapped an 0-for-19). Although Tucker's throw from left field was off-line, catcher Kurt Suzuki sprawled out to tag Flores just before he touched home plate. Callaway challenged, but the call was upheld.
The last time Jacob deGrom took the mound, he became the first Mets starter to throw a pitch in the eighth inning of a game. Although the Mets ultimately lost, deGrom will seek similar efficiency when he starts tonight at 7:10 p.m. ET at SunTrust Park. Julio Teheran gets the nod for the Braves.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.