Rookie Juan Lagares making splash at bat and in centerfield
On a day when Matt Harvey pitches seven scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts and David Wright and Marlon Byrd hit back-to-back home runs in the first inning, it's easy to overlook a rookie who on July 1 was hitting only .221.
But Juan Lagares has earned his fair share of attention and possibly more playing time with his performance during the last three weeks, and Sunday at Citi Field, he continued his hot streak at bat and in the field.
Lagares, who has made most of his starts against lefthanders while platooning with Kirk Nieuwenhuis in centerfield, went 2-for-3 with a three-run homer in the fourth off Phillies ace Cliff Lee. Although the ball cleared the orange line atop the wall in left-center, it bounced back off the railing and onto the field, and the play was reviewed after Lagares reached second base. When it was ruled a home run, the Mets had scored the last of their runs in a 5-0 win.
Lagares also ran down John Mayberry Jr.'s deep fly, which capped Harvey's outing and kept the shutout intact.
Lagares is hitting .412 (14-for-34) in July to raise his average to .265, and his two hits closed a three-game series in which he went 7-for-10 with a homer and five RBIs. His nine RBIs this month are two more than his total from his 44 games in April, May and June.
"We've played pretty well with what we've been doing, but I think Juan will certainly get some time against righthanders, too, not just a platoon thing," manager Terry Collins said. "We know he's got all the skills. It's about making sure he gets at-bats and playing and learning to make adjustments at the plate, which he's working hard doing."
Lagares said he spent the All-Star break reviewing almost all of his at-bats this season, an approach he hadn't taken before. He said he was able to spot some flaws that he was able to correct this weekend.
"I went home and watched my video and tried to find out what I had been doing before and what I do when I'm good, and that helped me, and that's something new," he said. "That's my job. I have to do something to get better every day. I had a lot of movement in my hands. I saw that, and those little things can help make that adjustment."
Though his bat has gotten hot, Lagares' defense has had the Mets' attention from the start. He displayed that skill when he tracked down Mayberry's well-hit ball in left-center to thwart the Phillies' best chance, stranding Delmon Young at third.
"It seems like he knows where the ball is going to be right off the bat, where he can just put his head down and just gets there," Wright said. "He's gotten to a lot of balls where I thought there was no shot that he was going to do that. I think all the playing time he's gotten, he's deserved."