In the eighth against Jeanmar Gomez, Cespedes, perhaps a bit hesitant, took a hittable pitch over the plate and then grounded into a fielder’s choice to spoil his chance at four home runs.
“I wasn’t looking for a homer,” Cespedes said. “If I was, I wouldn’t have hit a ground ball; I would’ve hit a fly ball, even if it was caught.”
So Josh Hamilton remained the last player to hit four homers in a game, having done so on May 8, 2012. Still, Cespedes finished with five R.B.I. and a franchise-record-tying four extra-base hits.
“Any player that can hit three home runs would be happy,” he said. “I’m not just happy that I hit three home runs but that the team won.”
Hitting off professional pitchers is a difficult task, smashing home runs even more so. Yet Cespedes, otherwise off to a bit of a slow start to the season, made it look exceedingly easy on Tuesday, as he has often done in a Mets uniform.
“Don’t think for one second this guy’s not going to have a huge year,” Collins said. “This guy is dynamite.”
Collins said Cespedes’s pregame batting practice “looked like a driving range, the way he was hitting balls.”
Cespedes chuckled after the game upon hearing that. He had not taken batting practice on the field in three days, but on Tuesday afternoon he did, and the ball flew off his bat. The warm weather and thebandbox of a stadium helped, too.
“It felt good,” he said. “I was hitting the ball well.”
There were other notable moments for the Mets: With their offense coming to life, Jose Reyes finally notched his second hit of the season, and Matt Harvey left a solid start with left hamstring cramping. But Cespedes made them feel secondary, especially when all eyes at the park were trained on him after his third home run.
Twelve players in Mets history have recorded a three-homer game. Cespedes, however, became the first to do so twice. He first accomplished the feat on Aug. 21, 2015, against the Rockies in Colorado. In some ways, Cespedes, 31, has become a better hitter since then, a progression that propelled him to an All-Star Game selection in 2016 and to a four-year, $110 million contract he signed in the off-season to stay in New York.
“He’s a special player,” Collins said.
As Cespedes and the Mets demoralized the Phillies’ pitching staff, it was easy to forget who had even taken the mound for the Mets. Making his second start of the season, Harvey pitched solidly, using his fastball more often. But in the sixth inning, he grimaced after covering first base.
Harvey, who allowed two runs and struck out six over five and two-thirds innings, left the game after a mound visit from the trainer Ray Ramirez.
Harvey did not benefit from much run support last season, but on Tuesday, he had perhaps too much. He suggested that sitting during the long innings when the Mets batted might have caused the cramping.
“It’s nothing serious,” Harvey said, adding that he had no doubt he would make his next start.
Asked how he would pitch to Cespedes, he grinned. “He was hitting everything, so maybe walk him,” Harvey said.
In Cespedes’s first at-bat of the game, in the first inning, he clobbered a three-run homer to center field off Phillies starter Clay Buchholz. It was not exactly unexpected that a hitter of his caliber would destroy a 91-mile-per-hour fastball down the middle of the plate.
It was what Cespedes was able to do in his subsequent plate appearances that separates him from the rest of the Mets and, frankly, most hitters.
He thumped a home run off reliever Adam Morgan down the left-field line into the back row of the first deck in the fourth inning, a ball that appeared to be propelled by a rocket. Even Cespedes was in disbelief, mouthing, “Wow!” after crossing home plate.
In the dugout, Reyes, who had a three-homer game with the Mets in 2006, teased his teammate.
“He was telling me that he once hit three home runs and that anyone can hit home runs,” Cespedes said. “So when I hit the third, I got to the dugout, and he was crazy.”
In the fifth inning, Cespedes drilled his third home run, his second off Morgan.
The rebuilding Phillies were a wounded team on Tuesday, an easy opponent for the Mets to pound. Buchholz left the game in the third inning with a right forearm strain, which put Morgan in the unenviable position of having to battle a suddenly hot lineup while trying to save his team’s bullpen from further wear.
The Mets, at their best, are a power-hitting lineup. Subtract Cespedes’s production, and the Mets would still have easily won.
Asdrubal Cabrera continued his solid start to the season with four hits, including a home run. Lucas Duda topped everyone in distance with a jaw-dropping 448-foot blast in the sixth that went over the batter’s eye in center field, and he added a second home run in the ninth. Travis d’Arnaud homered, too.
Although he did not join the long-ball parade, Reyes ended his own stretch of futility. After starting the season 1 for 27, he was moved down from the leadoff spot on Tuesday to seventh in the batting order — the first time he had hit that low since 2005. He smacked a double in the third inning.
Because the Mets’ offense plowed through the Phillies pitchers, Cespedes had his fourth at-bat, and hit his third home run, in the fifth inning. He had two more opportunities at major league history. He did not succeed, but he produced another power display that showed he might be capable of threatening the record books again.