Mets’ recent offensive resurgence provides some hope

WASHINGTON — Contrary to speculation last week that Buckingham Palace had called and told the Mets they were unwelcome in London, it turns out a semblance of a major league team was set to cross the pond Wednesday night, leaving one nation’s capital for another.

The Mets have obvious warts. But the manner in which the lineup in particular has produced lately is something to consider — and Francisco Alvarez appears ready for removal from the injured list after the Mets return to the States next week.

Then again, with Luis Torrens suddenly becoming Mike Piazza — the journeyman catcher blasted two homers in the Mets’ 9-1 victory on Wednesday that completed a three-game sweep of the Nationals — Alvarez can take his time.

Francisco Lindor belts a solo homer in the sixth inning of the Mets’ 9-1 win over the Nationals. AP

One number resonates. The Mets are averaging 4.9 runs over their last 18 games since May 18. In their previous 44 games they averaged 4.2 runs. For comparison’s sake, the Phillies lead MLB with an average of 5.1 runs.

Two things occurred on May 18 that are noteworthy when discussing the offensive improvement (and it hasn’t been linear, as the three-game sweep by the Dodgers last week at Citi Field in which the Mets scored only four combined runs illustrates).

First, manager Carlos Mendoza flip-flopped Brandon Nimmo and Francisco Lindor in the batting order. Lindor has benefited at leadoff, with a significant spike in .OPS. A batting average that sunk as low as .190 has suddenly become a more palatable .235. Nimmo’s numbers have declined slightly overall since shifting to third in the order, but over the last week he’s started to more resemble the player the Mets expect.

What else happened on May 18? At the behest of J.D. Martinez, players began taking accountability for their at-bats during the daily pregame hitters’ meeting. Each player was asked to speak up and state his approach for the upcoming game. If that approach wasn’t followed, an explanation from the player would be necessary afterward.

An example:

“Something I might put out there is ‘I am hunting the outside of the plate and I am going to try to hit the ball the other way in the air that day,’ ” Nimmo said. “And if you end up pulling the ball on the ground, then other guys are like ‘What did you do there?’ I might say, ‘I got just got fooled … I thought it was out there.’ ”

Pete Alonso scores on Mark Vientos’ single during the sixth inning of the Mets’ win. AP

Martinez and Alvarez are yet to play in the same lineup, and with Pete Alonso factored into the equation along with surging Mark Vientos, the Mets have a potentially formidable foursome from the right side.

The question will be whether Alvarez is immediately ready to contribute or if he will need a re-acclimation period following the rehab from surgery to repair a torn left thumb ligament.

Not all are sharing in the recent good fortune offensively. Jeff McNeil wasn’t in Mendoza’s lineup for a third straight game against a left-hander starter. The Mets want fewer fly balls and more line drives from McNeil, who scuffled through most of last season after winning the National League batting title a year earlier.

Brandon Nimmo, who swapped spots with Francisco Lindor in the lineup a couple of weeks ago, is hit by a pitch during the Mets’ win. Getty Images

Jose Iglesias has been a solid part-time player in his first week on the job, but let’s see if it continues. Is McNeil still a full-time player? The Mets hope so, but as Iglesias’ recent inclusion in the lineup shows, he will have to earn it.

The Mets have also received maybe better-than-expected offensive outputs from Harrison Bader and Starling Marte, two players who were question marks entering the season, largely for health reasons.

“Guys have been more consistent,” Lindor said. “More consistent in how we approach each at-bat and how we go from one at-bat to the next at-bat. That is usually a recipe for good results. It’s a game where we live for results. However, most of the time the process is what’s most important. And I feel that the process most of the guys are taking right now is working.”

The Mets still have to figure out how to protect leads in the late innings and receiving length from starting pitchers is paramount. The defense has been shaky.

But if there’s a sliver of hope for this bunch in this vital month toward determining whether the Mets will hold their pieces or be sellers at the trade deadline, there is optimism about a lineup that started improving on May 18 and should get a further boost from Alvarez.

Leave a Comment