If pregame applause is any gauge, Mets fans at Citi Field on Tuesday night liked the starting lineup put out by manager Buck Showalter against the Phillies.
Rookie Francisco Alvarez got a nice hand when he was introduced as the No. 2 batter for the second game in a row and first time at home after debuting in that coveted spot on Sunday at Colorado.
Mark Vientos, another rookie, heard the cheers when he was introduced as the No. 5 batter in his third consecutive start. Vientos was the designated hitter against Phillies lefthander Ranger Suarez.
Even bottom-of-the-order hitters Tommy Pham and Eduardo Escobar received polite applause. Those veterans – not the most popular players with Mets fans – occupied the 8-9 spots that had previously been homes to Vientos and Alvarez.
Alvarez has earned his batting-order promotion. Going into Tuesday, the 21-year-old was batting .309 in May with seven homers, 17 RBIs and a 1.087 OPS.
Is the No. 2 spot one that Alvarez can keep if he keeps on producing?
“Who knows?” Showalter said. “Today, with the lefthander and where our roster is . . . I think [Starling] Marte, it looks like he's starting to get back to being Starling and like to get him at some point back there. But we're doing well where we are right now. I want to get ahead of it. I think Francisco has a chance to be a force in lot of different spots.”
Marte, who was batting .243 going in, was in the sixth spot in the order.
One of the other tough choices Showalter made was to sit rookie Brett Baty for the second straight game against a lefty.
With second baseman Jeff McNeil returning to the lineup after not starting on Sunday because of minor groin tightness, Escobar started at third on Tuesday. Escobar played second on Sunday and went 2-for-5.
The other tough choice: Pham in left over Mark Canha, who was on the bench after going 0-for-2 with two walks on Sunday.
“There's a lot of variables there every day,” Showalter said. “We have the matchup outlook. We have historical matchups. Health. All of a sudden you have these plans and something you'd like to do and then something happens physically that you need to be cautious with. You can make a lot of things in advance, but by the time you get there something does come up and it changes the way you look at it. We take a lot of things into consideration . . . We have a lot of people that want to play. I don't have 13 spots.”
For Canha, not starting against the lefty was not a cause for concern. He said Showalter has spoken to some of the veterans and told them to be ready for anything, even if they are not in the lineup on a given day.
“Buck actually brought some of us in recently,” Canha said, “and just said, ‘Hey, there's a million different things among analytics, my opinion and other people's opinions, that go into making this lineup. So don't read into if you're playing or not playing, what that means.’ I'm used to being in a not full-time role, and I've done that a lot in my career in the past. Not recently, but I know how to do it. I know how to compete like that and it's something that I don't really have an ego about. I'm here to win and I'm here to compete and when my name is called upon, I’m going to be ready. That's my attitude toward it.”