Conforto shut down by southpaw Bumgarner

Conforto shut down by southpaw Bumgarner

NEW YORK -- Considering the vapor trail Michael Conforto rode into Sunday's 6-1 loss to the Giants -- he had reached base safely in 17 straight games, ranked fourth in the Majors in batting and fifth in the NL in on-base percentage -- Mets manager Terry Collins' lineup decision wasn't much of a choice. Despite the Mets' desire to shield Conforto from tough left-handed pitchers, they couldn't just keep their hottest bat on the bench.

That is how Conforto found himself facing Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner, one of baseball's best at retiring same-sided hitters. Since Bumgarner broke into the Majors in 2009, only five pitchers -- Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale, C.J. Wilson, Jorge De La Rosa and right-hander Matt Harvey -- have held left-handed hitters to a batting average lower than Bumgarner's .211. Only Kershaw has done a better job keeping lefties off base.

So when Conforto finished 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against Bumgarner, most notably reaching well out of the zone for a strike-three slider in the fifth, the Mets were willing to chalk it up more to Bumgarner being Bumgarner than anything else.

"He's a tough guy to face," said Conforto, who was 0-for-5 with three whiffs overall, dropping his average to .342. "That being said, I had opportunities. I had pitches to hit. I just missed them."

As the summer progresses, Conforto's opportunities should still come far more often than they did a year ago. Sunday, for example, the Mets were so determined to rest right fielder Curtis Granderson, a 35-year-old who hit .183 off lefties last year, that they started Juan Lagares in right field for the first time in three years. Already this season, Conforto has started against two of the three left-handed starters the Mets have faced.

In a small career sample, Conforto is batting .200 with six strikeouts in 32 plate appearances off lefties. Bumgarner didn't help. But the Mets are confident that a talent of Conforto's level will soon adjust.

"He'll be all right," Collins said. "He's been so hot. There are going to be days you're not going to get hits. It's just the nature of the game here. You're going to face good pitching. When you face a guy like Madison, it's going to be a tough assignment out there. You can't get too caught up in an 0-for-3 or an 0-for-4."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.