NEW YORK -- Under no circumstances was Adam Conley going to throw Yoenis Cespedes a fastball at that moment in the sixth inning with the count full, two outs and a runner on first base.
The decision was a wise one, and a pivotal one, because Conley snapped off a nasty slider that Cespedes swung through for strike three. The pitch was the defining moment for the 23-year-old Wednesday night in the Marlins' 6-0 win over the Mets at Citi Field.
Making his eighth start, Conley turned in by far his finest performance, limiting the Mets to three hits over seven innings. The lefty struck out six and didn't walk a batter.
It was in the sixth, after David Wright's two-out single, that Conley was able to bear down to preserve a three-run lead.
"Late in the game, and late in that count, I was starting to feel fatigue," the rookie said. "If you look at a list of maybe five or 10 guys who hit fastballs the best, Cespedes has got to be near or on that list.
"I hadn't really gone to the secondary stuff much with him. I had gone with a lot of fastballs. At 3-2 there, I was taking a gamble there, basically. I wanted to throw him a slider I didn't think he would be able to hit."
Conley wasn't going to give in, and throw a heater. If Cespedes walked, so be it, the lefty would take his chances with Juan Uribe.
"If he bit, it was my win," Conley said. "If not, then I was willing to put him on there, knowing that late in the game, in a close game, a guy like Cespedes can do damage on fastballs."
Also key was the lefty picked up his tempo. He had been slowing himself down in recent starts, and the results weren't favorable. Of his 99 pitches, 70 were strikes.
"Young guys come up here, and they give too much credit to hitters in the big leagues," manager Dan Jennings said. "And they forget to do what got them here. That's trust their stuff. I think tonight, hopefully, is a step in that direction. Where he understands that his stuff is good enough to be trusted, and he can be successful if he uses it."
In his last start, a no-decision against the Brewers, Conley worked just 4 1/3 innings, giving up two runs on eight hits with seven strikeouts.
"We talked to him about that, from his last start," catcher J.T. Realmuto said. "You could tell a huge difference today. He was taking the ball, not thinking. Getting on the mound and just throwing it. Not taking too much time in between. It's a lot easier playing defense for a guy when he has a pace like that."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.