Rookie Francisco Alvarez was the clear people’s choice, but Mets manager Buck Showalter went with veteran Darin Ruf as his designated hitter against lefthander Blake Snell in Game 2 of the National League Wild Card Series at Citi Field on Saturday night.
“Two good choices,” Showalter said. “The front office people have done a great job all year and the offseason providing us with some great options. But a little history there. I like the flexibility it gives us with the catchers. One of the things that Francisco brings, obviously he can catch. Darin’s got a little bit more of a track record, especially where the Padres are concerned, being in the National League West so much, knowing a lot of their pitchers.”
Ruf entered Saturday with three hits, including a homer, and three walks in 10 career plate appearances against Snell.
He has also faced the Padres a bunch from his days with the San Francisco Giants. Entering Saturday, Ruf had five career homers and an .815 OPS against Padres’ pitchers.
San Diego features four lefthanders in its bullpen.
Ruf had homered twice in 10 at-bats against Sean Manaea and once against both Josh Hader (one at-bat) and Adrian Morejon (two at-bats).
But here’s the rub with Ruf: He hasn’t played since Sept. 25 because of a stiff neck, and when he did get at-bats as a Met, he was not good.
Since being acquired from the Giants at the trade deadline, Ruf has hit .152 with no home runs and seven RBIs.
Ruf does has some postseason experience: He went 1-for-11 (a home run) in the 2021 NLDS against the Dodgers.
Is Ruf healthy enough and locked-in enough after only facing batting practice pitchers to help the power-starved Mets in an elimination game?
“We’ll see,” Showalter said. “He’s worked hard to get back here physically and just from the standpoint of working on his trade. So we’ll see if he can get back to his track record.”
Alvarez doesn’t have much of a track record since the Mets called him up on Sept. 30 and thrust him into the biggest series of the season in Atlanta.
The 20-year-old went 2-for-12 with a homer and double after starting his big-league career 0-for-8.
He became the youngest player to appear in a postseason game for the Mets when he ended Friday’s 7-1 Game 1 loss by striking out looking as a pinch-hitter.
Showalter was asked if he has any “concerns” about using the inexperienced Alvarez as a pinch-hitter in a big spot in the postseason, for example against the hard-throwing closer Hader.
“Sure, that’s something you think about,” Showalter said. “But that’s part of the equation.”
One other change Showalter made in his Game 2 lineup was to move Starling Marte from sixth to second. NL batting champ Jeff McNeil dropped to sixth against Snell.
Marte returned from a broken finger on Friday and went 2-for-4 with a stolen base. Showalter said he was pretty sure he was going to move up Marte “because of the way he felt after the game. But I didn’t put it in ink until we saw him and talked to him today when he got here.”