Yoenis Cespedes is just one guy on a 25-man roster, and he’s still feeling a quadriceps injury that put him on the disabled list Aug. 4. It’s not fair to expect him to carry the New York Mets to October.

But darn it, he’s going to try.

This has been apparent for the week-and-a-half that Cespedes has been off the DL, as he’s come back with his bat ablaze. In Monday’s 2-1 win over the Miami Marlins, a key foe in the National League wild-card race, Cespedes played the hero at Citi Field by slamming a walk-off home run in the 10th inning.

It was a classic Cespedes dinger, so the thing to do is drop your jaw now so as not to be caught off guard by how hard the ball was hit and how far it flew:

With that, Cespedes delivered the Mets’ seventh win in nine games. Their 67-64 record is tied with the Marlins at two-and-a-half games off the pace for the NL’s second wild card. They haven’t won anything yet, but this will do for a sign of life from a club that was under .500 as recently as Aug. 20.

Cue manager Terry Collins with the on-the-nose quote, as he told Anthony DiComo of MLB.com after the game: “Cespedes is one of those guys that people pay to see him play. He’s a special guy.”

More to the point, Cespedes is a special guy New York is paying $27.5 million precisely so he can do things like this. And he’s delivered. With a .949 OPS and 27 home runs, he’s just as good as he was in his 57 games (.942 OPS, 17 home runs) with the Mets last season.

And just as that stretch helped propel them to their first postseason since 2006, the veteran left fielder seems to be trying to do it all over again. After going a quiet 1-for-4 in his first game off the DL in San Francisco on Aug. 19, Cespedes has hit .406 with five home runs in eight games since.

These numbers don’t misrepresent how well he’s swinging the stick. We’re comparing a big sample size to a small one, but it is in the interest of what-the-heckery that we’ll turn to Baseball Savant for a look at Cespedes’ exit velocity before and after his DL stint:

  • Before: 92.9 mph
  • After: 96.2 mph

Put another way, Cespedes is on an exit-velocity binge that would make even Nelson Cruz or Giancarlo Stanton blush. To boot, that bolded figure doesn’t even include the rocket he hit to walk it off Monday night. That’ll only increase it, as Cespedes mashed that ball at roughly the speed of sound.

It’s all good for now, but the specter of the Mets plummeting back to mediocrity can’t be ignored. Things are set up to lean one way or another: Either Cespedes’ broad shoulders can bear the weight of the team, or the injury bug will swallow him and the rest of the squad whole.

The latter is a Godzilla-level clear and present danger. Cespedes is part of a lineup that won’t get David Wright or Lucas Duda back, and it’s also feeling nagging injuries to Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker. Cespedes is among the walking wounded, as concern over his tender quad led Collins to sit him Sunday, when the Mets lost to the Philadelphia Phillies.

“Any time you have the expanded rosters, it helps you, it protects you, because you’re banged up,” Collins said, per DiComo. “But let me tell you something: If Yoenis Cespedes goes down, that’s an awful lot to ask for Brandon Nimmo or Michael Conforto to make up for him. If you don’t have your good players, your best players, and they don’t play good, it’s tough to replace them.”

Monday’s game offered a hint that Cespedes’ quad may render him just as likely to taketh away as giveth. The one run the Marlins scored came on a Xavier Scruggs double that Cespedes was unable to catch up with.

If Cespedes’ defense is compromised, that’s yet another hit to the Mets’ run prevention. With Matt Harvey gone for the season, Jon Niese on the DL and Steven Matz still working his way back from a shoulder problem, a once-heralded pitching staff has grown thin. Hence its 4.69 ERA in August.

So far, though, Cespedes’ hot bat is having a larger impact than his potentially compromised glove. And looking ahead, the Mets aren’t exactly tasked with tracking down the 1927 New York Yankees or, for that matter, the 2016 Chicago Cubs.

As expected, the struggle has been real for the Stanton-less Marlins. The Pittsburgh Pirates, who were a game-and-a-half ahead of the Mets as of this writing, are hot, but they’re facing depth issues reminiscent of what’s going on in Queens, New York. Leading the charge in the NL wild-card race are the San Francisco Giants, who have been terrible since the All-Star break, and the St. Louis Cardinals, who are seemingly immune to any kind of consistency.

This is a winnable race for any of the teams involved. And while it’s not the same as saying it’s the favorite in the bunch, any team with a hot Cespedes is a team with a chance.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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