ATLANTA — Luis Rojas trusts his team’s ability to hit, he thinks Jeff McNeil’s struggles are rectifiable, and sees signs of life in Francisco Lindor’s bat. The only problem is that very little of that has actually shown up on the scoreboard this season.
After an eight-game stretch where the Mets averaged 2.5 runs, Rojas Tuesday said he expected his players to progress toward the mean: Michael Conforto will get his home runs, McNeil will get on base, and Lindor will show signs of why the Mets were so eager to sign him to a mega-contract this offseason.
"You’ve got to count on Jeff McNeil being the Jeff McNeil that we’ve seen for a couple years now," he said before the Mets were set to take on Atlanta at Truist Park. "He’s been expanding, chasing some pitches up and down. He’s a good bat to ball guy so that’s why he has a lot of confidence in his swinging, because he thinks he’s going to take the barrel to the ball easy. Sometimes, that’s not going to get you a good result, necessarily…He’s gotta be cognizant that teams out there know that he’s going to be aggressive and he’s going to expand at times, so he’s just got to make that adjustment so he gets better pitches."
As for Lindor, Rojas insisted that positive results are coming, adding that he was especially pleased with some of his at bats against the Nationals Monday (he went 0-for-5).
"I think he found [his swing]," Rojas said. "He’s in a good position right now. He squared the ball off yesterday I think in all his at bats, so it’s really tough to say that he’s going through a bad stretch right now with the way he’s swinging the bat. I think the results are not there but I think he is right now where he needs to be. There are some things that are going to happen because he’s in a good position to hit, he’s in a strong position."
All that is well and good, but the Mets will need some tangible results, and soon. Lindor, a career .280 hitter, is batting .215, while McNeil, a career .309 hitter, is sporting a .234 batting average. The best regular hitter on the team, Pete Alonso, is slashing a relatively modest .267/.351/.467. They’re last in runs, hits, and RBIs, as well as 26th in batting average, 27th in homers and 20th in slugging percentage.
They’ve also gotten into the habit of waiting until late in the game to score runs – a pattern that’s no doubt stressful to their pitchers. They scored three of their four runs in the eighth inning Monday and both their runs Sunday in the eighth and ninth.
"We haven’t been really good early," Rojas said. "We have to come out of the shoot with the same intensity that we do at the end of games. It’s almost like our focus increases later in games and we’re facing tough starting pitchers but we’re facing tough relievers, too…We’ve just gotta come out of the shoot with our focus level the same."
Still, Rojas’ optimism doesn’t waver. Their pitching has kept them atop the National League East, but he expects the bats to come, too, and in a weak division that could be enough to secure their position.
"We know a couple guys connecting with good at bats is what’s going to get our offense moving better right now," he said. "Right now, we want some connections, [and to] get quality at bats."
Right. And maybe some runs to show for it, too.