NEW YORK -- The Mets understand the depth of the hole they dug themselves into with a first half fractured by injuries and poor play, so much so that general manager Sandy Alderson all but guaranteed the team would be sellers by month's end, barring the improbable.
And yet the second-half version of the Mets has looked like anything but sellers after steamrolling through their first two second-half games, putting up Coors Field numbers on the Rockies in Queens again in a 9-3 win at Citi Field on Saturday.
But as it seems to have all season, an ominous injury cloud appeared over the Mets again on a night where so much seemed to go right. Starter Seth Lugo pitched into the seventh and blasted his first career home run, and the offense put up crooked numbers for a second straight night, but New York again lost its best player to injury when Yoenis Cespedes left the game in the sixth after tweaking his hip during a catch attempt.
"It was more precautionary than anything, but he did feel something in his hip, so I took him out," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I doubt he'll be in there tomorrow just as a precaution."
"If it's a matter of being able to play, I'm able to play," said Cespedes, who has battled nagging but unrelated leg injuries all season. "If he wants to give me that day off, I'd gladly take that day off and rest."
Cespedes' injury overshadowed Lugo's career day, as the right-hander earned the win by limiting the Rockies to three runs over 6 2/3 innings and became the second Mets pitcher to homer this season when he took Chris Rusin deep in the third.
"Then jogging around the bases was pretty surreal," said Lugo, whose last home run came in college in 2011. "I always looked forward to that moment when I was a little kid. It was pretty killer."
Lugo's solo blast bookended an eight-run burst by the Mets over the first three innings. Four came at the expense of Rockies starter Tyler Chatwood, who walked three and allowed a three-run homer to Jay Bruce before departing with a right calf strain five batters into the game.
Chatwood's injury forced Rusin, who allowed four runs (one earned) over 2 2/3 innings, into an emergency relief role, and by extension Kyle Freeland into his first career relief appearance, a role he could pitch more in going forward as Colorado looks to lessen the loads on its young starters.
Chatwood said his calf began bothering him in the bullpen, midway through his pregame warmup. He felt he could still pitch, but said he was unable to push off with his right leg and thus couldn't keep his pitches down.
"It became apparent he couldn't fight through it," Rockies manager Bud Black said.
The Mets have outscored the Rockies, 23-5, in two games this series. The loss was Colorado's seventh in 11 games this month and 15th in its last 20 games overall. The Rockies' lead in the National League wild-card race fell to 5 1/2 games over the Cubs.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Lugo launches one: Lugo ambushed a fastball from Rusin in the third, lining it into the party deck in left-center field to give the Mets an 8-0 lead. Lugo's ability in the batter's box had stayed under the radar on a team with three of the better-hitting pitchers in baseball in Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz. But the second-year righty can swing it. He now owns a .222 average and four extra-base hits in 32 career plate appearances.
"I was about to go on deck, and Six (Mets assistant hitting coach Pat Roessler, who wears No. 6) said "let it eat" on that pitch. I said, 'All right, I'll let it eat,'" Lugo said. "I don't even hit home runs in batting practice."
Cespedes leaves: After battling nagging hamstring issues for the better part of two months, Cespedes declared himself fully healthy prior to Saturday's game, hours before departing with the training staff in tow. The hip tweak is unrelated to the past injuries, but still fits a disconcerting pattern the Mets know they must keep an eye on.
"I have a little discomfort in my hip, but the doctor said there is nothing serious going on," Cespedes said. "I think I could have definitely kept on playing. Because of the score of the game, we decided to play it safe."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Mets didn't have a pitcher homer for nearly three years from 2012-15. Since '15, they have eight home runs from pitchers, the second most in baseball.
WHAT'S NEXT Rockies: Right-hander Jeff Hoffman (5-1, 4.15 ERA), who grew up two hours away in Latham, N.Y., starts for the Rockies in Sunday's series finale, with first pitch set for 11:10 a.m. MT.
Mets: Left-hander Matz (2-2, 3.05) takes the ball as the Mets eye a sweep. Matz, who grew up on Long Island, will pair with Hoffman in a battle between New York-born hurlers set for 1:10 p.m. ET.