Cespedes, who, like Bruce, has looked much better at the plate recently, collected two hits, scored two runs and stole two bases —all before the bottom of the third inning, when he left with a sore left thumb after sliding into third base on his second steal.
An X-ray revealed no breaks in Cespedes’s hand, but he said he expected to undergo further tests in New York and hoped to only miss three days.
“We had several guys start off slow, but this is a team,” Cespedes said. “When you can’t do the job, someone else picks you up.”
Bruce reached base four times and drove in Cespedes in the first inning. Gonzalez, the Mets’ slumping first baseman who was on the verge of losing some playing time to Bruce, drove in five runs, including a three-run, opposite-field home run in the seventh inning that put the game out of the Padres’ reach.
It was an impressive showing from an offense that entered Sunday near the league average in runs scored per game. A power-hitting lineup in the past, they had just 23 home runs, the fifth-lowest in baseball, because Bruce, Frazier and Conforto, who is returning from shoulder surgery, had combined for only six homers — though Frazier added one in the eighth inning on Sunday. (Frazier and Conforto have been more effective at drawing walks.)
“It’s not always about having the big numbers; it’s about getting the key hits,” Gonzalez said.
In an effort to bolster the offense, Callaway said he would give more playing time to the backup outfielder Brandon Nimmo, who has hit well in limited chances. That would mean Bruce would play at first base “every now and again,” Callaway said, along with Wilmer Flores and Gonzalez, who have thus far formed a platoon at the position.
“I came into this year knowing I’m not the everyday guy and I’m just ready to go whenever they call me,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez, 35, a veteran left-handed hitter with a balky back and a one-year contract, and Flores, a right-handed hitter, both entered Sunday’s game batting .200 or lower. Advanced metrics, however, showed Gonzalez was hitting the ball better than his numbers indicated.
“It’s for the benefit of everyone to keep Adrian rested and to make sure Nimmo gets in the game as much as he should be playing and keep Bruce in there as often as possible,” Callaway said. “It’s a fine balance.”
On the mound, the Mets’ rotation had a 4.13 earned run average entering Sunday, 15th in baseball — a low figure for a group that was expected to be among the best in the N.L. entering this season.
The Mets are 9-3 in games started by deGrom (2.06 E.R.A.) and Syndergaard (2.86 E.R.A.) but 8-6 in games started by anyone else. Matt Harvey was moved to the bullpen to keep Wheeler in the rotation and to make room for the newcomer Jason Vargas.
After recovering from surgery on his non-throwing hand, Vargas had a miserable season debut on Saturday, allowing nine runs over three and two-thirds innings. Wheeler (4.09 E.R.A.) had a mixed outing Sunday: He threw too many pitches, so he lasted only five innings, but he allowed just two runs while striking out nine.
Steven Matz’s next start will be pushed back to Saturday because of recent upper back stiffness. Even though Matz (4.98 E.R.A.) felt fine after a bullpen session on Sunday, Callaway wanted to be cautious. Syndergaard will instead start on regular rest on Tuesday in New York against the Atlanta Braves.
“I’m very optimistic this rotation is going to be good in the long run,” Callaway said over the weekend.
The Mets bullpen, which has been steadier than the rotation, was without closer Jeurys Familia on Sunday. He was given permission to attend a ceremony following the passing of his father-in-law, and was expected to rejoin the team on Tuesday. Without him, the Mets used Paul Sewald, Robert Gsellman and Harvey to complete the victory.
It was a fine formula for an easy win on Sunday, but one that will have to evolve if they hope to extend this hot start.