Despite the slumbering power woven into their lineup, the Mets have shown a different flex in righting their season by taking three straight from the Phillies, including Wednesday night’s 5-1 victory at Citi Field. A grinding, get-on-base, get-him-in, manufacturing process fueled by the top three spots in the Mets’ batting order, a trifecta made complete once manager Luis Rojas moved Dominic Smith into the No. 3 spot this week and dropped the slumping Michael Conforto.
The Mets did get one deep ball Wednesday -- James McCann’s first homer, a two-run shot that opened up some breathing room in the eighth inning. Otherwise, 11 of their 12 hits were singles -- with Brandon Nimmo, Francisco Lindor and Smith combining for seven of them.
No team has fewer than the Mets’ five home runs. By comparison, the Reds lead the majors with 20. Of course, a big reason for that is the Mets playing only eight games, but they’re fine just chugging along with the "small bites," a saying that the almost-Met Alex Rodriguez often used to describe such behavior.
Maybe the best part? The Mets harassed old friend Zack Wheeler early, not letting him settle into a groove right away at his former place of business. And who better for that job than Nimmo, who is virtually automatic at reaching base this season.
Incredibly, Nimmo didn’t draw a walk Wednesday night, after totaling eight through his first six games. Instead, he collected three singles, and two of the infield variety, to drive his batting average up to .464 and on-base percentage to .583. In the first inning, after Nimmo slapped an opposite-field single, Lindor followed with a base hit and Smith lined an RBI single for the quick 1-0 lead. Pete Alonso made it 2-0 by hitting into a double play, and with David Peterson cruising, that seemed like it would be enough.
"This is what our offense can do," manager Luis Rojas said. "The quality at-bats put together. I’m glad that we got some big hits tonight. We’ve created situations to score -- we just haven’t been getting the big hit. So the bats are starting to heat up. It’s just the reps. We have guys that are getting there."
Overall, the Mets were 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and still left 10 on base. But they scraped together enough offense against a formidable foe in Wheeler, and you have to think that once the Mets start playing games on a more regular basis -- rather than being interrupted by COVID-19 and bad weather -- the bats are going to be more of a consistent threat. Overall, they’re hitting .191 with RISP, and only three teams in the majors are worse: the Diamondbacks (.186), Cleveland (.175) and the Cubs (.100).
Even when the Mets were sputtering last week, the engine that makes this team go is Nimmo, whose uncanny ability to get on base is not just tied to walks. In the right situations, Nimmo can be the aggressor, ambushing a pitch early in the count. And Wednesday night, in the eighth inning, Nimmo converted what appeared to be a routine groundout into his second infield single when he simply beat Rhys Hoskins to the bag.
Or least that’s what the umpires came up with, even after Joe Girardi’s challenge, sticking with the call that Nimmo maybe got his big toe there first. But good things happen when you never stop hustling, and with Nimmo -- who always sprints to first base on a walk -- it’s not for show. He just has to be in perpetual motion, and Nimmo already is trending upward in a hurry.
"His plate discipline is absolutely incredible right now," Alonso said before Wednesday’s game. "But that’s always par for the course with Brandon. I mean, his eye and zone command is probably one of the best in the league. How he’s just swinging the bat with authority, at quality pitches, it’s really impressive."
The other trigger atop the order is Lindor, who picked up his first two-hit game as a Met and scored two of the five runs. In both cases, Lindor went first-to-third on singles by Smith, which enabled him score on outs twice, including the insurance run on Alonso’s sacrifice fly in the seventh inning.
Now that Smith has found a home in the No. 3 spot, it’s tough to envision him losing his grip on that role, especially with Conforto’s funk deepening (0-for-17). As Rojas pointed out after Wednesday’s win, Smith was the team’s RBI leader a year ago, a fact that the manager apparently forgot when he’s filled out the lineup card that first week in Philly. Rojas won’t be making that mistake again anytime soon.
"Dom has responded really well to hitting behind those two guys," Rojas said.
It’s working out much better lately for the Mets, too.