PHILADELPHIA — In this forgettable Mets season, Michael Conforto is the unforgotten.
The 24-year-old outfielder will take his act to the Subway Series on Monday as the Mets’ representation in a rivalry that could be captivating for years to come: Conforto vs. Aaron Judge.
While the stud Yankees outfielder has emerged as the almost certain AL Rookie of the Year and hovers in the MVP conversation, Conforto’s star is rising rapidly.
Already an NL All-Star this season, Conforto is now pushing toward substantial numbers in his breakout season. On Sunday he slammed his fifth homer in eight games, leading the Mets’ 6-2 victory over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
The Mets will limp into Yankee Stadium as a shell of the team that was expected to contend for the NL East title this season, but at least they have Conforto to anchor a lineup that has lost Lucas Duda, Jay Bruce and Neil Walker to trades over the last 2 ½ weeks. Conforto leads the Mets with 26 homers, including 12 since the All-Star break.
For the Mets, there is little else to celebrate heading into four games with their crosstown rival.
“They are games we have got to go play and obviously [the Yankees] are playing for something,” Collins said.
Conforto’s two-run homer in the first inning propelled the Mets toward a third victory in four games against the Phillies, on a day Yoenis Cespedes and Amed Rosario both began on the bench to rest for the Subway Series. Curtis Granderson hit a two-run homer in the fifth to provide a cushion for Chris Flexen.
Granderson, a trade candidate as the Mets continue to search for deals involving players with expiring contracts, also delivered an RBI single in the seventh as part of his three-hit day.
The rookie Flexen (2-1) lasted five innings in which he allowed two earned runs on six hits with five strikeouts and four walks.
Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom, Seth Lugo and Steven Matz are aligned to face the Yankees over the next four days.
Conforto’s last five hits have been homers, including the three he launched in the four games against the Phillies. It’s conceivable he will surpass 35 homers — a plateau last reached by a Mets player in 2008, when Carlos Delgado hit 38.