The Mets' disappointing offense was finally starting to click by the time we reached Labor Day weekend.
Jonathan Villar was finding success out of the leadoff spot, and Brandon Nimmo was helping set the table behind him in the No. 2 hole. As a result, the Mets found their way back to .500 with a seven-game winning streak.
Unfortunately, Nimmo went down with a hamstring strain, which landed him on the IL on September 4.
This thrust Kevin Pillar back into the starting lineup, a spot he held onto for two months in the first-half as a result of Nimmo's first IL stint, filling in for him in center field.
And although the loss of Nimmo was a major blow to a Mets team fighting for their lives to make the playoffs, Pillar's presence proved to be impactful.
In the month of September, Pillar is slashing .292/.364/.563 with a .927 OPS, three home runs, 13 RBIs and four doubles. And over the course of his last 30 games, he has a .256/.330/.538 slash line with an .868 OPS, six homers and 18 RBIs.
However, Nimmo was activated on Friday, which sent Pillar back to the bench. But this didn't stop him from making his mark in last night's 4-3 loss to the Phillies, as he drove in a critical two-out RBI double as a pinch-hitter to pull the Mets within a run in the eighth inning.
While Nimmo's return pushed Pillar out of center field, Jeff McNeil's bat has been severely underwhelming as the starting left fielder.
According to manager Luis Rojas, due to this factor, along with Nimmo's maintenance, coming off a hamstring issue, Pillar should receive more playing time in left field down the stretch.
"We may give him a chance to play there, if the matchup is right of course or if we are in the need," said Rojas prior to the Mets-Phillies game on Saturday night. "If McNeil is not swinging the bat like we know he could, we could get Kevin in there any given day.
"Also, if the matchup is right or if Nimmo needs a day," he said. "If Nimmo can't go, or on days where Nimmo is even playing, he [Pillar] may get a shot in left field too or even in right if we were to give a day to Michael [Conforto]."
Despite Rojas saying Pillar would get more playing time, whether Nimmo played or not, he is out of the starting lineup again tonight. Nimmo was ultimately able to go for the second straight day, which is a good sign. However, Pillar is on the bench, with a slumping McNeil in left.
With the Mets in dire need of offense, Pillar needs to start over McNeil, who has been in a season-long slump and has looked like a shell of the career .319 hitter who entered the 2021 campaign.
Overall, Pillar is slashing .224/.272/.416 with a .687 OPS this season, which is less than ideal. But he does have 15 home runs and 44 RBIs and has come through with a few clutch hits and timely long balls to help the Mets win some important games this year.
And with time running out and the Mets' postseason chances quickly evaporating, they must keep Pillar in the lineup moving forward if they are going to have a shot.