Mets' Michael Conforto suffers concussion in 7-6 loss to Nationals

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WASHINGTON – Michael Conforto’s face collided with Robinson Cano’s left shoulder, and the sturdy outfielder dropped to the outfield grass at Nationals Park.

Conforto barely moved for a few seconds, the result of the concussion he just suffered, and after a quick discussion with his manager and trainer, the outfielder exited Thursday’s game against the Washington Nationals in the fifth inning.

“I hit him really hard,” Cano said. “That’s sad news for the team and all of us, and the last thing you want to happen, you and your teammate.”

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In the ninth inning, Conforto’s spot in the order came up with the bases loaded and two outs and the New York Mets trailing by one run, a spot they would have loved to have Conforto for.

Light-hitting and rarely used outfielder Keon Broxton, who had replaced Conforto, instead struck out against Sean Doolittle to end one of the worst days of the Mets’ season.

They lost one of their key players in Conforto, who is now headed to the injured list, and the 7-6 defeat clinched a series loss to to a struggling and undermanned Nationals team.

Conforto headed back to New York to be examined further.

“We’ll see how long these are but somebody else is going to have to step up,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said of losing a top player in Conforto. “That’s how this game goes, when you lose somebody, somebody else has to step up and got the job done.”

New York Mets right fielder Michael Conforto, right, collides with second baseman Robinson Cano as they fail to catch a fly ball that was hit by Washington Nationals' <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/7746/" data-ylk="slk:Howie Kendrick">Howie Kendrick</a> in the fifth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, May 16, 2019, in Washington. Conforto left the game after the play. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
New York Mets right fielder Michael Conforto, right, collides with second baseman Robinson Cano as they fail to catch a fly ball that was hit by Washington Nationals' Howie Kendrick in the fifth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, May 16, 2019, in Washington. Conforto left the game after the play. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Conforto has been one of the Mets’ three premier offensive players this season, and it was a scary scene Thursday afternoon when he ran face-first into Cano.

In a 4-all game in the fifth inning, Howie Kendrick lofted a ball into shallow right field. Cano said he called it early, but Conforto still tracked it and tried to call it late.

The ball dropped in just to left of the foul line, and Cano, who was running northeast, collided with Conforto, who was running southeast.

Conforto is strong and well-built, and clearly was groggy after running into Cano. Callaway and trainer Brian Chicklo attended to Conforto before escorting him off the field.

Gerardo Parra followed with a two-run homer off Mets starter Zack Wheeler, who allowed six runs in six innings, that gave the Nationals the lead for good.

The Mets are hoping for the best for Conforto since concussions are dangerous and can sideline players for long stretches of time, sometimes even for a season.

“He hit the ground hard, hit his head on Cano’s shoulder, hit the ground pretty hard,” Callaway said. “He was kind of dazed when I got there, stumbling around a bit."

Conforto previously hit a three-run homer in the third that had evened the score at 4-all after Wheeler put the Mets in a four-run hole in the first.

His absence is a tough blow.

The former first-round pick is slashing .271/.406/.521/.926 to go along with his nine homers. His OPS ranked in the top 25 among all players as of early Thursday evening.

Conforto, Jeff McNeil and Pete Alonso have carried the offense for long stretches, and most of the others have underachieved. McNeil departed Thursday’s game in the third inning for precautionary reasons due to abdominal tightness, but expects he’ll be fine.

Juan Lagares figures to start in center more often while the team could start using J.D. Davis and Dom Smith in left field. Callaway told WFAN that Davis, who has played one inning in the outfield this year, will start in left field for the first time Friday against Miami.

The Mets could also call up Carlos Gomez, who has a June 1 opt-out clause, since Broxton is struggling and does not seem to have a set role.

Broxton went 0 for 3 after filling in for Conforto, including his final at-bat that ended the game after the Mets had rallied for two runs in the ninth against Doolittle.

“Every time I get up there I feel I have to do more than what I need to do just to be able to keep playing,” said Broxton, who could be designated for assignment soon. “It’s tough.”

Conforto’s absence comes as the Mets are trying to right the ship during the easy portion of their schedule. They swept the miserable Marlins in a two-game set this past weekend at Citi Field, but now dropped a series to a reeling Nationals team.

Another series with Miami could be the perfect remedy, but this team is not going to have much room for error without one of its top players.

“It’s tough. You never want to see that, especially with Mike, one of our best players and it's tough to see,” Wheeler said. “If he can get back quickly, get over that and continue what he’s been doing. Next guy has to step up now.”

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