Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Mets Win 101st, McNeil Wins Batting Title

James McCann (33) returning to the dugout after his home run. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Mets beat the Washington Nationals, 9-2, in the regular season finale on Wednesday night at Citi Field for their 101st win, and Jeff McNeil also clinched the batting title.

This is now the second-highest win total in Mets' history, to the 1986 team's 108, eclipsing the two 100-win seasons in 1969 and 1988. Those are the only four teams that finished with 100-win seasons in Mets history.

The Mets, who finished 101-61, will be hosting the San Diego Padres in the new three-game Wild Card Series on Friday night at Citi Field, and Mets Manager Buck Showalter revealed after the game that Max Scherzer will be on the mound for the Amazin's.

The Mets lineup looked a bit different in the regular season finale, as Francisco Alvarez was at catcher, and with Pete Alonso given the night off, one of their catchers, James McCann played first base. Terrance Gore played center field in place of Brandon Nimmo.

The most notable absence was Jeff McNeil, who entered the final day of the season in first place in the National League batting title race, with a .326 average to Los Angeles Dodger Freddie Freeman’s .322.

Mets Manager Buck Showalter was asked who made the decision for McNeil to sit, and he said, “Mine, wouldn’t put that on him. There’s a way he might get to play today.” With regards to how it would affect the batting title chase, Buck said, “I don’t trust my math well enough, so I got some help, don’t want to be wrong, so at least I have someone to blame it on even if I have to wear it.”

The math held, as Freeman went 3-for-4 to finish at .325, just one point behind McNeil, giving him the batting title, the first for a Met since Jose Reyes in 2011 and just the second in franchise history.

Since the Mets game began at 6:00 p.m. after a two-hour rain delay, and the Dodgers' game began at 4:20 p.m. eastern time, it was revealed that McNeil clinched it when their game was in about the third or fourth inning.

McNeil entered for Francisco Lindor at the start of the eighth inning in order to give him an ovation. 

Showalter said of having McNeil get recognition from the fans, "That was a great moment, I knew the fans would be on top of it and recognize it, and unlike someplace, I knew they'd be there, too. They've been so supportive of us all through thick and thin this year, and tonight was the night to kind of recognize them and our appreciation for their support. We're going to need it the rest of the way, they've been there home and away, it's been the one constant, and it's much appreciated by the players. 

"Jeff, that's a heck of an accomplishment, he earned it all the way through thick and thin, to be able to, you know, give him a moment that he deserves. He didn't ask for it and he would've played tonight and all those things; he earned everything. You don't do something like that over those number of games without earning it, that's for sure. He took on everybody's pitcher and he won the batting title, very proud of him, so is everybody on the team. He's appreciative of Lindor, if someone had to play, and talked to Francisco last night and today, and he said, no, no problem, he didn't want to take two days off in a row anyway, but I kept waiting for the right moment."

It was possible that Lindor, who played a career-high 160 games this season through Tuesday, would be rested in this one since the National League East race was over, but he was in the lineup playing shortstop and hitting third in the lineup. Showalter said before the game of the decision, “There’s a lot of back conversations, back and forth, a little bit of Francisco too, he really, concerned’s not the right word, hasn’t had two days off in a row, not sure how that would affect him. He likes the one day, not overly fond of two.” 

The Mets wasted no time getting to Washington starting pitcher Eric Fedde, as Mark Canha hit a three-run homer in the first inning, his 13th of the season. That was followed in the second with a three-run double from Lindor up the gap in left field, and then a three-run homer from McCann, his third of the season, to make it 9-0. 

Lindor, backed by those three RBI, finished the season with 107, to go along with a .270 batting average and 26 home runs, an impressive showing in his second season with the Mets.

"He's been a rock," Showalter said of Lindor's season. "He's, I can't tell you, when you look at good teams, they have one thing in common, they have, I don't want to say your best player, but people have to post-up, people that play shortstop and play first base and drive in 100-plus runs, you can't drive in 100 runs if you're not able to be the type of player he is. What's the word I'm looking for besides post-up, just playable, he's in there every day, I think he's had 22 days off this year, but just a well-conditioned athlete who has a lot of discipline off the field, takes care of himself, the responsibility he has to his teammates, the organization, to the fans, you know, he gets his rest, he has a routine he goes through to play, and guys that do that, you know, you trust them, and we trust Francisco."

Showalter was asked what the ovation Lindor received upon exiting for McNeil meant to him, and he said, "It was for both of them, I wish, my only regret was that I couldn't physically do Canha tonight. Mark had talked about how he had kind of been working on something and thought he had found a real good approach, and so playing him tonight to finish that off, and obviously could tell he felt really good at the plate. That was one I wish I could have found a way, but that would have required, you know, a potentially embarrassing situation for somebody. I think you owe it to the pitchers to have a representative defensive club out there.

That 9-0 lead was more than enough for the Mets' pitching, as reliever Mychal Givens, who was activated off the injured list before the game pitched a scoreless first inning before Trevor Williams pitched six innings, in which he allowed two runs on six hits and no walks, with six strikeouts, and he earned the win to finish the season with a 3-5 record and a 3.21 ERA (earned run average).

Showalter said of Williams afterwards, "I got to tell you, this may sound a little over, but you could make a case for him to be a most valuable player, of pitchers especially that we've had this year. If you look at it, the things he's done and the things that, spot start, long relief. A lot of the years that people had in the bullpen were directly because, one of the reasons, I shouldn't say directly, was because of the job Trevor did keeping them from getting overextended and their health. I tell you, there's not a more respected guy in that clubhouse, from the standpoint of the things that he's done for this club and his teammates, and tonight was another great example of that. 

"We got some weather that looked iffy; Mike (Givens) was a priority to make sure we got him in there, so we wanted to do that from the get-go, so we were able to get done what we needed to get done, and Trevor allowed us to do that tonight. I was looking down there who might have to pitch - do you know that you can pitch a position player if you're five runs up? I thought it was only down."

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