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The Mets (30-24) bring several things to the table for their measuring stick series with the San Diego Padres (37-27).
Jacob deGrom starting on Friday night brings an immediate advantage to begin the series. A recent four-game split with the Padres surely brings some confidence, and with Luis Guillorme serving as the latest player to come off the injured list, the Mets are bringing something closer to their full-strength roster.
They’re also bringing the fewest runs scored in all of Major League Baseball.
At the start of the day on June 11, a team comfortably leading their division has also scored fewer runs than any of their competitors. Bad weather luck has caused the Mets to play fewer games than any team in the league as well, but nevertheless, fewer Mets have crossed the plate this year than Pirates, Rangers or Orioles, a handful of teams that are plainly not trying to win.
Averaging 3.87 runs per game — more than only the Pirates and Tigers — is typically not conducive to winning. The Mets’ starting rotation and bullpen have been equally spectacular, buoying a record that could be in significantly more dire straits. The offense is doing its best too, given that five of their projected starters entering the season have spent time on the injured list. One of those previously injured hitters, Pete Alonso, is back with a vengeance now.
Alonso is mashing .371 since his sprained hand was deemed healthy enough to play. In the nine games he’s participated in since being activated from the IL, Alonso has four home runs and 12 RBI. Slotting right back into the middle of the order, Alonso gives the Mets the professional run producer they’ve lacked for so much of this topsy-turvy season. His manager notes that the injury might have also prompted a slight swing change that’s contributed to all the loud contact.
“He’s minimized movement because of it,” Luis Rojas explained. “You can see that there’s less movement from A to B. The bat speed is faster. He’s getting to the ball easier. There’s evidence that he’s healed and the approach is better.”
One thing to monitor with the new approach is the amount of ground balls coming off the Florida Gator’s bat. Alonso is hitting fewer grounders this season (33.3% of batted balls) than ever before (his career average is 39.0, and his lowest single-season rate is 39.2). Prodigious power and well below-average foot speed makes ground balls a no-no for Alonso. More balls in the air means more home runs, extra base hits to the gap, and most importantly, more numbers on the board for the run-starved Mets.
“Because my body wasn’t able to be in the right position consistently, I feel like that affected me,” Alonso said of his feelings at the plate before taking time off. “I was dealing with some pain, some tightness and some swelling. I put together some productive at-bats, but I was just a version of myself. I wasn’t my full, normal self. I knew it was because of my hand.”
The time away — during which the Mets went 5-4 — did not torpedo the season, and if anything, Alonso said, will benefit the greater good.
“I needed to take some time to get it healed 100%. Me being 100%, that’s the best way to help the team in the long run. Coming back and being healthy for the rest of the season, that’s the most productive thing I can do.”
The morning before his team demolished the Orioles 14-1 and Alonso clubbed his third home run in two days, he disclosed that he can do his normal routine without any pain and finally feel like himself again. For someone who makes his money by knocking balls over the fence, that means one thing.
“If I hit ‘em, they’ll go out,” Alonso deadpanned. “I don’t care if I’m playing in Yellowstone. They’ll go out.”