NEW YORK -- Before Saturday's Subway Series continuation at Citi Field, Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes changed his walk-up music to "Empire State of Mind" -- a nod, perhaps, to rapper Jay-Z, who founded the agency that will represent his financial interests this winter. Or maybe it's a wink to the growing hope he will stick around Flushing's concrete jungle for another few years.
Then, Cespedes spent nine innings of the Mets' 5-0 loss to the Yankees demonstrating that, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, he is not, in fact, a perfect player. Finishing 0-for-4 with a key strikeout in the Mets' sixth-inning rally, Cespedes tumbled deeper into an 0-for-17 funk, and on defense misplayed a Dustin Ackley fly ball into a triple.
"Right now, he's just not hitting the ball like he did," manager Terry Collins said.
His key at-bat came in the sixth, as the Mets were threatening to make one of their now-signature comebacks in a five-run game. With runners on first and second and no outs, Cespedes swung and missed at three consecutive pitches -- the last of them a 95-mph fastball that tickled the top of the strike zone. He offered at 10 balls in total on the afternoon, putting just three of them in play.
Everyone slumps, and certainly Cespedes deserves more slack than most. Already one of the most productive Trade Deadline acquisitions in Major League history, Cespedes was batting .309 with 17 homers in 41 games for the Mets prior to taking a Tom Koehler fastball off the waistline last Tuesday -- a pitch that provoked some reaction from the Mets, but ultimately not much spillover.
"One of the coaches brought up today during the game that he was 0-for-15 [at the time] since they drilled him," Collins said, noting that he plans to drop Cespedes from the No. 2 hole in his lineup for Sunday's Subway Series finale. "I don't think he's afraid, by any stretch of the imagination. But we'll just keep running him out there."
Through a team spokesman, Cespedes declined interview requests after the game.
Speaking for him, Cespedes' teammates described a player who is liable to grow hot just as quickly as he cooled -- particularly given his recent history. Late last month, Cespedes fell into an 0-for-15 slump, only to respond with nine home runs in his next 13 games.
The Mets are confident he will respond again. It is what they now expect of him.
"Unless you want him to hit .500 with 100 home runs per year, which is what his pace was for a few weeks or a month or whatever it was, you're inevitably going to slow down a little bit," third baseman David Wright said. "But he's the type of guy that makes adjustments fairly quickly. It wouldn't surprise me if he gets hot again here real soon."