The memories barely register now. The boos for Yoenis Cespedes, the criticism of manager Terry Collins, the widespread panic that engulfed Citi Field after stumbling against a pair of lousy teams — none of it resonates.
What endures is much more palatable. By hanging on to Saturday’s 6-5 victory over the Giants, the Mets have responded to supersized expectations with one of the best opening months in the history of the franchise. And they’ve done so behind the emergence of one of the brightest young hitters in baseball, Michael Conforto.
“It was time to get back to playing baseball,” Collins said after Conforto’s latest virtuoso performance, in which he fell a triple short of the cycle. “It was time to get away from the hoopla, time to get away from 2015 and start concentrating on 2016.”
Just three weeks ago, Collins caught flak for a 2-5 start that followed a lackluster spring training. The reigning National League champion Mets appeared as if they were no match for expectations.
Though Jacob deGrom’s velocity has yet to return, Wilmer Flores made a costly error and the bullpen nearly coughed up a three-run lead, the Mets survived to win their eighth straight, the longest active winning streak in baseball.
The Mets (15-7) finished April one win shy of equaling the franchise record for victories in that month. Their .682 winning percentage for the opening month is the third-best mark in team history.
“We were all excited to get the year started,” deGrom said. “Our goal is the same: Win the World Series. I think to have a good start is a big part of that.”
The Mets begin May with the same record through 22 games that they had in what proved to be a charmed 2015 season.
Conforto, 23, has been among the catalysts. Before his ascent to the third spot in the order, the Mets averaged 2.5 runs per game. Since then, that number has jumped to 6.2.
Against the Giants, Conforto went 3-for-4, including a two-run double and his fourth home run of the season. In the 14 games since he was elevated to the third spot in the lineup, the Mets’ hitting prodigy is hitting .407/.450/.796 with four homers and 15 RBIs.
Just as he did when he was drafted in the first round, and just as he did when he was promoted last July from Double-A Binghamton, Conforto has made a seamless transition.
“My attitude has been with everything . . . to embrace those opportunities,” he said. “If you take those things as opportunities, it doesn’t seem like a big move. It’s more exciting, more exciting than nerve-wracking.”
Conforto has doubled in six straight games, tying a franchise record. He has reached base in 17 straight, the longest such stretch in his career. Collins has shielded Conforto against lefthanders, and the Mets are set to face southpaw Madison Bumgarner in Sunday’s series finale. But it’s possible that Conforto has become too hot to bench.
“He’s going to be a force,” Collins said. “We all think that. He’s going to get better and better. That’s why we’ve got him where we’ve got him. We’re not afraid to put him there on a good team with big expectations.”
Neil Walker added a two-run double and slumping Wilmer Flores hit a solo homer. DeGrom (3-0, 1.02 ERA) allowed two hits and three runs (none earned) in six innings, though he walked four after not allowing a free pass in his first two starts.