DENVER — Yoenis Cespedes crossed home plate, mouthed “Wow” and flashed a smile. He had just golfed a low curveball to the opposite field, over the wall in right-center field, and everyone at Coors Field seemed to have the same reaction as him.
His Mets teammates excitedly reached out to high-five him as he passed through the dugout, everyone making sure they at least touched his hand. They looked like the hordes of people who rush barricades just to touch the pope. A talent like Cespedes’s is that rare. Though his Mets career may last only another six weeks, they would remember nights like this.
“I haven’t seen anything like that,” said Manager Terry Collins, who is 66 years old.
Cespedes collected five hits, a career high, finishing a triple shy of the cycle. He smashed three home runs, tying a franchise record. He scored five runs and drove in seven, while no other Met drove in more than two, and led the Mets to a 14-9 win over the Colorado Rockies, a victory that extended their lead in the National League East to a season-high five games.
Cespedes called it the best game of his career. He said, “It’s like any other player or good hitter: They find a night when they can lock themselves in, and they won’t miss the ball.”
This was why the Mets acquired Cespedes at the trade deadline. In his 18 games with them, the team’s record is 12-6, and he has a .321 average, 11 extra-base hits and 15 R.B.I. Each of his home runs Friday was majestic in its own right. The first was a laser to right field, a grand slam, and the second and the third he muscled toward center field.
The Mets have gone 5-0 against the Rockies now, which is perhaps why they announced before the game that they would skip Matt Harvey’s start here Sunday. The Mets had discussed at length when they should skip Harvey, as a way to help him meet his innings limit. Though the Mets denied that they had targeted the Rockies, the timing seemed perfect.
The Mets’ reasoning is this: If they skip Harvey now, it will allow him to rest his body and gear up for the stretch run. The Mets believe that if they skip this start and use a six-man rotation come September, Harvey will be able to pitch the rest of the season uninterrupted.
Harvey has thrown 154 innings so far, and his limit is believed to be 190.
The Mets had also noticed after his last few starts that Harvey looked a bit fatigued, which may be part of the reason he did not fight the team when he was told the news, whereas in the past he might have taken offense. “Let’s get it over with,” he told the Mets’ brass.
“I told them I was completely on board with whatever they want to do,” Harvey said. “I just kind of preferred that it be sooner rather than later. Toward the end of September, if we’re still where we are, I want to be as sharp as possible going into October.
“Now seemed like a good time.”
The Mets had considered waiting to skip Harvey’s start in September, when Steven Matz is expected to return after an injury and they would have him to use in Harvey’s place. But the Mets figured there was no guarantee that Matz would return as scheduled. He struggled with his command during his second rehab start Thursday. He threw 41 pitches, allowed four hits and one run and issued one walk in two and two-thirds innings at Class A St. Lucie.
Logan Verrett, another rookie, will start in Harvey’s place on Sunday.
The Mets’ pitching depth almost vanished before them in the second inning, though, when Bartolo Colon squared around to bunt and a pitch struck his right wrist, on his throwing hand. The trainer Ray Ramirez and Collins went out to inspect Colon, but he stayed in the game. He was pulled in the fourth inning, after allowing nine hits and seven runs.
After the game, Colon showed off a golf-ball-size bump on his forearm near the wrist. He said the Mets had had X-rays taken but had not received the results.
“I hope the lord protects me and I don’t have to miss a start,” Colon said.
Another injury to a starting pitcher would have forced the Mets to re-examine their plans, considering that they still plan to skip at least one of Noah Syndergaard’s starts. Collins indicated that could happen soon, but he said that it would not be his next start, in Philadelphia. Depending on the timing of his return, Matz could potentially start in place of Noah Syndergaard.
Harvey, for one, will use his off time this weekend to rest. He has not done much in recent days, and he may throw only one bullpen session this week. Despite what the Mets said, Harvey said he felt fine, but at the same time, he seemed to welcome the reprieve. He will now have 11 days off to rest between starts.
If his performance is any indication, the Mets have handled him just fine this season. In 23 starts, Harvey has posted a 2.57 E.R.A., the 11th-best mark among qualified pitchers. To avoid distractions, he has told the Mets management and his agent, Scott Boras, not to include him in their discussions about his innings total. The Mets are obsessing over it enough, it seems.
“I’ll be relieved,” Collins said, of possibly ending all the talk about skipping starts. “I’m tired of talking about it; I really am. I know we had to do it. I get it. It’s understandable. I’m just glad it’s going to be finished. We’re going to move on and grind it out.”
Lucas Duda left the game in the seventh inning after his back locked up on him again. It had recently caused him to miss a few games. The Mets will re-examine him on Saturday and decide then whether to place him on the disabled list. … Terry Collins said he expected David Wright to rejoin the team Monday, in Philadelphia.