Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Mets Lineup Becoming A Force

Pete Alonso and Todd Frazier (center) by the batting cage on Tuesday. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Mets hitters are becoming a force to be reckoned with, marked by the emergence of first baseman Pete Alonso, the continued growth of Jeff McNeil, and the veteran presence Robinson Cano and Todd Frazier.

Tuesday night's win over Philadelphia showed what just how good they can be, as they rolled to a 9-0 win.

The headlines in the win were pitcher Zack Wheeler's two-run double and solo home run, and then Todd Frazier's grand slam, but it's what led them to those big moments that is emblematic of the kind of team they want.

In the second, Wilson Ramos walked, and then with two outs, Luis Guillorme was able to get a single to keep the inning alive and bring Wheeler to the plate and he delivered the two-run double. 
Brandon Nimmo then put the ball in play and Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez made an error, which brought home Wheeler to give the Mets a 3-0 edge.

Wheeler's solo homer came in the fourth, and then in the fifth, with one out, Cano and Michael Conforto each got singles, and McNeil was walked intentionally with two outs to load the bases and Frazier hit the grand slam to blow it open and make it 8-0.

Frazier's grand slam came in just his second game this season, as he missed the first few weeks with an injury.

J.D. Davis has been the Mets starting third baseman most of the season, and he is hitting .281 with three home runs and seven RBI with a .388 on-base percentage.

Mets Manager Mickey Callaway has a tough choice now about who will start at third, and what that choice says about their lineup. after Tuesday's win, "It's gonna be a hard decision everyday. They both look good, Frazier obviously just got here, but has had some success so far, and when you're hitting quality hitters like that kind of that far down your lineup, makes you feel dangerous. We have such a deep lineup this year that you can do either and be okay, but we still have to make the right decision, so we're going to grind on it, continue to communicate, and be diligent about everything we need to be diligent about. Make sure we're putting the right guy out there because you really can't go wrong at this point, it seems like."

Another player who has spent time at third base, but primarily has been in left field, is Jeff McNeil, who burst on the scene last season and has kept it going to open the 2019 campaign.

In 22 games, McNeil is hitting .368 (28-for-76), the fourth-highest batting average in baseball, with 1 home run, 11 RBI, 11 runs scored, and 12 walks, with a .448 on-base percentage (sixth in the league) and .500 slugging percentage.

Callaway said on Tuesday afternoon of McNeil being able to carry it over into this season, "First of all, like last year, he can barrel up the ball and not just on strikes. He has a knack for, you know, hitting pitchers' pitches and executed pitches and balls that are off the plate. He's not limited to just one zone where he can put the ball in play and get a hit, so the average kind of stays up where it's at because he has that ability, and then he can do a little damage like we saw last night if you really don't execute a pitch (referring to his home run in the Mets' 5-1 win on Monday night against the Phillies).

"He wears you down and you have to throw one over the plate. I think it's more he's just a really, really good hitter that, you know, I'm sure a lot of the pitches that he hits for base hits, the pitchers go back and go, 'what else can I do? I threw that three inches off the plate sinking away, and he slaps it to left. Those kind of hitters are not fun to face for anybody because you're not quite sure how to get them out other than, you know, continue to execute pitches and try to stay out of the same spot twice and hope he hits it at somebody."

Rookie first baseman Pete Alonso has also been a revelation for the Mets with a slash line of .310/.408/.690 with eight home runs and 21 RBI. He also has 18 runs scored, 12 walks and 26 strikeouts.

Callaway said of Alonso being the same type of hitter as McNeil, "He does a little bit different, he hits it a little bit harder, probably a lot harder most of the time, but even the one he hit off the plate away and went with the pitch yesterday, that ball, it was a half-swing and he hit it really hard (on his RBI double Monday night). So, he does have that natural ability to go get the ball just off the plate or, even if it's an executed pitch.

"McNeil kind of takes that approach all the time, I think Alonso's approach changes more with runners in scoring position and gives him that ability. I think when a runner's not in scoring position, Alonso is probably not going to take that swing and is going to look for something to drive and hit a double or a homer or try to do a little bit more damage. He has an uncanny ability when there are runners out there on the pond to slap it the other way if he needs to and drive in runs. That's why he has a lot of RBIs."

Callaway said of what he continues to learn about Alonso the more he is around him, "We always are. You see the energy, you see the focus, you see his ability to take pitches the right way, to expand the zone, to get an RBI. This guy brings a lot to the table, you know, he's calling at night to try and get in the lineup, so I'm learning more and more about him every day.

"He's here to win every single day and he brings energy every moment out there on the field. He's been tremendous so far. It's fun getting to learn who he is and what he's all about."

Callaway said of what his lineup is like on a given night and how it's hard for a pitcher to navigate, "If you look up and down our lineup, we have a lot of different hitters this year. You know, Ramos is a totally different hitter than anybody we had, his ability to go the other way and hit line drives, staying on the ball. Cano, obviously, is a certain type guy, McNeil, (Michael) Conforto, and (Brandon) Nimmo are kind of similar, but they're kind of spread out, so you can't just go through our lineup and go, 'okay, if I get my curveball working and my four-seam riding fastball, I'm going to be fine today.' You have to alter what you're doing from batter to batter and that makes it tougher."

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