Put a bat in Pete Alonso’s hands and there is always the chance that it will produce shock and awe. He hits home runs that are remarkable: from the dramatic sound of the contact to the breathtaking velocity of the ball off the bat to the distance his drives travel.
However, there is so much more to what the slugger is doing this season. Yes, he is leading the National League in runs batted in with 95 after knocking in two more in Sunday’s 5-2 win over Atlanta at Citi Field. More important, he leads all of baseball at driving in runs to give his team a lead.
He did it for the 27th time this season in the third inning when he came to bat with one out and runners at the corners in a scoreless game. Alonso stayed with an 86-mph slider from Atlanta starter Spencer Strider, reached down and drilled it along the third-base line, where it caromed off the bag and into leftfield for a double. Brandon Nimmo scored easily from third and Francisco Lindor raced around from first to slide home safely ahead of the throw for a 2-0 lead the Mets would not relinquish.
“I just want to do my job,” said Alonso, who went 1-for-3 with the two RBIs and drew an intentional walk. “The whole purpose is winning games and getting guys [in], whether it’s hitting the ball over the fence or driving guys in with [hits].”
Alonso has been on a hitting tear since the All-Star break. He’s at .389 with five home runs and 17 RBIs in 16 games as the Mets have gone 12-4.
Manager Buck Showalter was asked about Alonso’s performance at the plate and replied, “I don’t think people realize how smart a hitter he is.”
Said Alonso: “Every at-bat, every pitch, I try to learn something. I try and see how the ball is behaving, see how it’s moving, how the pitcher is attacking me.”
He struck out in the first inning against Strider but got something out of a seven-pitch battle in which he saw five sliders. Alonso said the takeaway going into his second plate appearance was “just understanding the [slider’s] shape.”
Alonso has come through when the Mets needed a run enough times to be labeled a “clutch hitter,” and Showalter believes he has that quality.
Showalter said he has seen plenty of players who thrive “with nobody on and the [score] 8-1” and “you wouldn’t believe they’re going to the Hall of Fame.” He added, “Then you put a guy out there with two outs in a key situation.
“People sometimes, we miss how good a hitter he is because we chase the power [numbers] and stuff . . . He [has the] ability to fist the ball out over the infield on a pitch where most of us would be picking the splinters out of our hands and he [ends up] standing at first base,” Showalter said of Alonso’s run production. “It gives him great joy when he fists one out there.”
Alonso actually embraces the pressure situations when he has a chance to put the Mets ahead.
“Absolutely, that’s what I trained for,” he said. “It’s what I envisioned growing up as a kid: the guy to help the team get a lead or go ahead and win. It’s why I do it.”