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Mets playoffs: Juan Lagares has earned a spot in Mets' lineup

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The center fielder continued his strong postseason in limited work during Game 1 of the World Series. He's starting Game 2 tonight.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Had Alex Gordon and the law of averages not struck Jeurys Familia to extend Game 1's torturous 14-inning marathon, Juan Lagares would have cemented a place in Mets folklore.

Inserted into a game as a defensive replacement, the Gold Glove center fielder made his presence felt at the plate. With the game tied at 3-3 in the eighth inning, a seemingly overmatched Lagares refused to submit against relief pitcher extraordinaire Kelvin Herrera. During a long at-bat, Lagares cracked the ninth pitch for a two-out single. After stealing second, he scored a go-ahead run on an uncharacteristic Eric Hosmer error. In a chaotic five-hour game seized by the Kansas City Royals, the sequence faded from turning point to afterthought.

Given limited work—either starting against lefties or reserved for a defensive sub—Lagares has gone 7-for-16 with two doubles, two steals, and six runs scored this postseason. It is a small sample size, indeed, but all the Mets ever wanted was average offense from the defensive whiz.

Kicking off the World Series at Kauffman Stadium, the Mets could have used the designated hitter to bolster their defense. Instead, they kept their outfield intact and opted to start Kelly Johnson, optimizing their offense against Edinson Volquez. But in the first inning, a miscommunication between Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes turned into a leadoff inside-the-park home run from Alcides Escobar.

Lagares will start Game 2 with Cespedes manning left and Conforto taking his cuts as a designated hitter. But what happens when the series shifts to Citi Field?

The Royals aren't starting any southpaws, so Collins would have to sit Conforto against a righty to keep Lagares in the lineup. Benching someone who finished his rookie campaign with an .872 OPS against righties isn't ideal, but it's something the Mets should consider, considering the Royals' general ability to put the ball in play.