SPORTS

Midseason addition of Yoenis Céspedes fueling Mets' surge to top of standings

New York Mets' Daniel Murphy celebrates with Yoenis Cespedes (52) after Cespedes' two-run home run during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015, in Washington. The Mets won 5-3. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

New York Mets' Daniel Murphy celebrates with Yoenis Cespedes (52) after Cespedes' two-run home run during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015, in Washington. The Mets won 5-3. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

As the New York Mets were packing up last week for their road trip, Yoenis Céspedes leaned into his locker and accidentally smacked his head on something.

Pretty hard, too.

The dull thud was loud enough to catch teammate Daniel Murphy's attention nearby.

"Esta bien?" Murphy asked in his best Spanish. You all right?

Céspedes simply walked away rubbing his noggin – but that's about the only bump he's had since arriving in New York.

"All right" doesn't even begin to describe his play for the first-place Mets.

In a stretch run full of stars who switched teams before the July 31 trade deadline – David Price, Cole Hamels, Johnny Cueto, Troy Tulowitzki and more – Céspedes has become a driving force.

Barely over .500 when Céspedes came from Detroit and debuted for them on Aug. 1, the Mets quickly turned into bruisers. Newcomers Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson helped, too, as did the return of injured captain David Wright.

Céspedes, though, seemed to energize the entire team, be it with his monster home runs, strong-armed throws or dashes on the bases. Or even that neon yellow sleeve he's worn.

"He does. He does," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "All they talk about is we've got to get him up there. Get a couple of guys on, and let's get him up there. Let's see what happens. It just seems every night he comes up with a big hit."

Céspedes totaled 14 homers, nine doubles, three triples and 36 RBIs in his first 36 games for the Mets. That came after a relatively slow start for him – he had three extra-base hits after 10 games, all of those on one night.

To Céspedes, his success is about more than a powerful swing.

"I don't want to sound like I am crazy. Back in Cuba, I used to work with a psychologist, a sports psychologist," he said through a translator. "Prepared me not only physically, but mentally in the crucial moments so I can put my best efforts, good at-bats, get my mind right to produce and get everything right."

Along with drawing ovations at Citi Field and cheers from Mets fans on the road, Céspedes figures to pull in some votes for National League MVP. There's precedent for that – players have changed leagues in midseason, put up big numbers and been rewarded in the balloting.

It's unlikely Céspedes would top Bryce Harper, Anthony Rizzo, Nolan Arenado and others who have spent the whole year starring in the National League. Still, look for his name up there when the award is announced in November.

A look at other players who made a sudden impact after switching sides during the season:

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MANNY RAMIREZ, 2008 – Traded from Boston to the Dodgers, hit .396 with 17 home runs and 53 RBIs in 53 games and led LA into the NL Championship Series. Finished fourth in the MVP voting.

CC SABATHIA, 2008 – Moved from Cleveland to Milwaukee and went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA, pushing the Brewers into the playoffs. Was fifth for the NL Cy Young, sixth for the MVP.

CARLOS BELTRAN, 2004 – Traded from Kansas City to Houston, hit 23 homers in 90 games. His biggest contribution came in 12 playoff games: 20 for 46 with eight homers and 14 RBIs.

DAVID JUSTICE, 2000 – Went from Cleveland to the Yankees, hit 20 homers with 60 RBIs in 78 games for the eventual World Series champions.

RICK SUTCLIFFE, 1984 – Sent from Cleveland to the Cubs in a mid-June deal that included Joe Carter, went 16-1 and brought the postseason to Wrigley Field for the first time since 1945. Won the NL Cy Young Award and was fourth for the MVP.

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