Opposite-field homer a good sign for Conforto

Mets' lefty-swinging outfielder hits first HR to left in '16 after 5 the other way in '15

Opposite-field homer a good sign for Conforto

NEW YORK -- Until Friday night at Citi Field, Michael Conforto hadn't homered once to left field this season. Not even in his red-hot April, when he hit .365, and certainly not in his ice-cold May, a month in which he had been hitting .158 and not driving much of anything the other way.

However, in the Mets' series-opening 3-2 win over the Brewers, Conforto put one out to the opposite field -- a go-ahead two-run shot on a 95-mph Wily Peralta fastball that was down but over the middle of the plate.

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"I think it's a big thing," Conforto said. "Last year, I think I hit about half of [my home runs] the other way, and I was swinging really well during those times. So I think it's a good sign for me to be able to go the other way with power."

In Conforto's 2015 rookie season, five of his nine homers went to the opposite field. But in '16, though he had notched some extra-base hits the other way in April, none had gone over the wall. All six of his homers were to the right side, and the 23-year-old had gotten a little pull-happy during his May scuffles.

"What you saw tonight is what I hope I see -- and that is, the fact that he uses the field," manager Terry Collins said. "If you remember last year, when he hit homers, he hit a lot of them to left field."

There had been a few other scattered indicators of improvement before Friday, like Conforto's home run off Nationals ace Max Scherzer on Tuesday, and the fact that he'd only struck out three times in his last seven games after racking up 15 strikeouts in his first nine in May. Friday's 2-for-4 effort, with both hits to the left side of the diamond, was another.

"When he starts hitting the ball the other way," Collins said, "it means you're seeing the ball, you're seeing it longer, and it gives you a better chance to make contact."

Hitting balls to left field is something Conforto said he's been especially focused on during his slump, the first real one he's had in the big leagues. He said it's become all the more important when his swing has been off.

"Having that approach and going the other way," Conforto said, "is something that I'm really working on right now, and something that will help me in the future."

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.