It was a 2-and-1 pitch from Jaime Garcia and Amed Rosario got all of it.
The fourth-inning drive had some carry to it and Toronto centerfielder Kevin Pillar tracked it all the way to the wall in right-center. It had a shot to be the Mets shortstop’s first home run of the season, but hit the top of the wall and bounced back into play. He did not get the dinger — even after an umpire review — but the run-scoring double snapped a 2-2 tie and put the Mets up for good in Tuesday night’s 12-2 win over the Blue Jays at Citi Field.
That Rosario hit provided the second run in the Mets’ five-run fourth. He would add a run-scoring single to center in the three-run fifth and another single in the seventh. His three hits tied a career high set last September against the Cubs and raised his average 18 points to .261.
This could be a sign that Rosario’s offensive game may finally be arriving.
“I am feeling much better,” Rosario said about his at-bats in recent days. “I’ve been working hard every day . . . I’ve been working on my approach and [control] of the strike zone.”
He was the club’s top positional prospect for two years before he was called up late last season and became the Mets’ starting shortstop. However, after hitting for a high average in his last two years in the minors — .324 at multiple levels in 2016 and .328 in 94 games for Triple-A Las Vegas in 2017 before the call-up — Rosario hasn’t produced as well at the big-league level.
He was batting an anemic .222 after the Mets lost to the Braves on May 3. In nine games since, he has batted .379 and driven in four runs. In every one of those games, he has hit out of the No. 9 spot in the batting order.
“We kind of just committed to going ahead and leaving him in the nine-hole. There was a few games where, with the personnel we had, we thought maybe the seven-hole was the place for him and it just wasn’t working,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “We said we’ll just stick him in the nine-hole and it seems like ever since then, he’s really relaxed and done a really good job there.”
He’s hit .307 from the final spot in the order. He’d hit .087 in seven starts batting seventh.
“I have no problem hitting in other spots, but I’ve taken more at-bats in the ninth spot and maybe that’s why I am more comfortable,” Rosario said.
Hitting behind the pitcher is not a statement about how disappointing Rosario’s offense has been. Rather, it is tactical. Having a weak hitter behind you in the order — like a pitcher — often means you see fewer good pitches to hit. With the leadoff man behind him, Rosario has a chance to see more hittable pitches and is more likely to get his offense in gear.
Last season, when he hit .248 in 46 games, Rosario never batted ninth.
“I have seen a lot of better pitches this season than last year,” he said.