The Mets' Pete Alonso reacts after popping out against the Giants...

The Mets' Pete Alonso reacts after popping out against the Giants during the seventh inning of a game in San Francisco on Monday. Credit: Jeff Chiu

SAN FRANCISCO — In what became a key moment early in the Mets’ 5-2 loss to the Giants on Monday night, Jeff McNeil had two options: field the ball or get out of the way.

Instead, he did neither and kicked it. Yes, he booted it — and not in the usual baseball jargon way, when maybe there is a bad hop and it deflects off a glove and an ankle/shin. This grounder straight up went off his foot to kick-start a San Francisco rally.

“Just one of those weird plays,” McNeil said. “I was going for it. I called it first, then Lindor called it. I got caught right in between going for the ball [and not]. It was just a little communication error.”

That was the first in a series of lapses for a team that, for all of its grand offseason plans to be sharp in the field, has not been defensively sound in this first month of the season.

Entering the day, the Mets ranked last in the majors in Defense Runs Saved, a modern metric that attempts to put an overall number on fielding ability, at -12, according to FanGraphs. In Outs Above Average, which is similar and created by MLB, they were tied for 24th with -5.

President of baseball operations David Stearns — who happened to be present for the series opener, his first road game of the season — made moves to bolster the Mets’ perennially mediocre or worse defense. He signed Harrison Bader, which moved Brandon Nimmo to left, and traded for Tyrone Taylor to shore up the outfield. They brought in Joey Wendle as a backup infielder and kept Zack Short on the roster out of spring training.

The Mets (12-10) don’t seem to be sweating it.


“I don’t really know where we score or anything defense-wise, but we’re making all the routine plays,” McNeil said. “We’re making some good plays as well. We’re winning ballgames. That’s what matters.”

Nimmo said: “I think it’s been pretty good. Everybody has adjusted to their new spots pretty well.”

This time the Mets’ fielding woes did no favors for lefthander Jose Quintana, who separately wasn’t very good and gave up five runs in five innings (plus one batter in the sixth).

McNeil’s oopsie — ruled a single for Jorge Soler — kicked things off in the bottom of the second.

Soler hit a weak grounder that bounced off the back of the mound toward McNeil and  Lindor, who were several steps on the shortstop side of the bag. Third baseman Brett Baty picked up the ball, with no play to be made. McNeil looked around and shook his head.

San Francisco (11-13) wound up loading the bases on Michael Conforto’s single — a breaking ball well down and outside flicked into leftfield — and Thairo Estrada’s walk.

Down 0-and-2 with two outs, No. 9 hitter Nick Ahmed sent another grounder toward shortstop for a two-run single. Lindor’s attempted diving stop resulted in the ball trickling into center, allowing the second run, Conforto, to score easily.

“The ball found holes,” manager Carlos Mendoza said. “It happens.”

Quintana gave up another pair of runs on Matt Chapman’s line-drive double to leftfield in the third. The trail runner scored easily again — from first base — after Nimmo let the ball get by and roll to the corner.

“It was hopping a little bit funny down there, but ultimately I just didn’t get down far enough,” Nimmo said. “That’s on me.”

Conforto homered on Quintana’s only pitch of the sixth, a middle-middle curveball.

Mendoza said Quintana needs to be more aggressive in the strike zone. Quintana agreed, adding that his fastball command “can be better.”

“It was a bad day,” he said.

Giants rookie righthander Keaton Winn, meanwhile, shut the Mets down for six innings. Their only run against him came in the fifth on Pete Alonso’s homer, the 199th of his career.

The Mets brought the potential tying run to the plate in the ninth, but DJ Stewart grounded out to end it.

“You never know if we end up stranding that guy,” Nimmo said, “and it’s a closer ballgame there at the end.”


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