Neil Walker took a swing and there was that familiar loud sound and that familiar long-distance flight of the ball. This one crash-landed in the first deck of Citi Field seats beyond the right-field fence.
Robinson Cano leads all major-league second baseman with 15 homers. What second baseman is second best? That would be Walker.
Daniel Murphy’s replacement has been living in home-run heaven so far with the Mets. Walker sent up a two-run shot in the third inning Tuesday night to give the Mets a four-run lead. But they couldn’t hold it and lost to the White Sox, 6-4.
So the 30-year-old switch-hitting import from Pittsburgh heads into June with 13 homers. But this isn’t just a home-run-happy story. Walker has been a two-way force, productive on offense and steady on defense. The Mets have had some issues, but Walker has helped them go 29-22 and stay close to Murphy’s Nationals.
“Not having seen a lot of him, he’s been over and above better than I anticipated,” manager Terry Collins said.
Good thing, too.
David Wright has a herniated disc in his neck and it’s uncertain if he will have to go on the DL. The third baseman was already trying to fight through spinal stenosis in his back and was batting just .226 with 55 strikeouts. First baseman Lucas Duda went down on the DL May 23 with a stress fracture in his lower back. James Loney made his Mets debut at first in this game. And catcher Travis d’Arnaud has been on the DL since April 26 with a strained right rotator cuff.
But Walker is already 10 from his career high of 23 homers. After this 2-for-4 game, he’s batting .278 with 25 RBI. He’s batting .341 with five homers off lefties. And he has made just one error in 49 games.
“He’s played absolutely great at second base here -- I mean really great,” Collins said. “The reports were he didn’t play much against lefties; he didn’t hit lefties very well. He’s done nothing but hit lefties here. I know that he and Kevin (Long) worked on some things in spring training to try to improve his righthanded side. Those actually worked. …
“This guy has produced runs for us. Right now, he’s a big bat in the middle of our lineup. He, certainly being a switch-hitter, protects (Yoenis Cespedes) as good as anybody.”