Still not convinced by these Mets? Searching for another reason to believe?
We’ll give you an unexpected place to look. Check out 41 Seaver Way.
That’s the new address of the Mets’ former adversary, Citi Field, a home ballpark that used to be mostly horrific for its tenants since the stadium opened in 2009. They’ve had only four winning seasons inside the building, the last in 2016, when the Mets finished seven games over .500 (44-37) in Flushing.
This year, however, Citi Field could turn out to be the Mets’ greatest ally after they improved to 31-20 at home with Tuesday’s 5-0 victory over the Marlins, their 12th win in 13 games. The Mets not only have appeared to solve the riddle of Citi’s previously bat-numbing curse — managing to win there at a .620 clip now — but they also play 30 of their remaining 48 games in these now-friendly confines.
Finally, a true home-field advantage, as the Mets’ offense has transformed this pitcher-friendly roost into more of a launching pad for their young sluggers. When Pete Alonso and Wilson Ramos both went deep Tuesday that put the Mets at 79 home runs through their first 51 games at Citi.
Last season, they finished with a total of 75 in Flushing.
Having Alonso helps. As does a juicier baseball. That was Alonso’s 18th homer at Citi, and No. 36 overall. But this offensive trend is not just about clearing the fences — which, as you probably know, have been moved in twice since 2012. The Mets’ production has improved across the board, as they entered Tuesday hitting .253 at Citi, with a .775 OPS and 4.82 runs per game.
While those numbers only rank the Mets in the middle of the major-league pack, they’re significantly better than what we’ve seen here. From 2012 through 2018, the Mets batted .230 with a .677 OPS and scored 3.72 runs per game at Citi Field.
There have been plenty of theories as to why. Everything from the wind blowing in off Flushing Bay to the vapor trails caused by LaGuardia air traffic. The dramatic change this season, however, is certainly related to these Titleist-caliber baseballs, and probably includes the Mets’ less pull-happy approach at the plate, a philosophy preached by hitting coach Chili Davis.
Chili’s best disciple is J.D. Davis, who had two more hits Tuesday (with a walk) and is now batting .396 (42-for-106) with a 1.170 OPS at Citi Field, the highest in history for a Met with at least 100 plate appearances there. He also has seven homers and 17 RBIs in 43 games there.
During Monday’s nightcap win over the Marlins, spurred by a three-homer seventh inning, Davis was the first to go deep with a 402-foot blast into the visitors’ bullpen in right-center. Previously, an oppo-shot like that didn’t happen, unless you were Mike Piazza. But this year’s jumpier ball, combined with Davis’ teachings, is allowing the Mets to inflict damage in ways they weren’t able to do in the past.
“I’ve only been in the league for a year, so I really don’t know how the balls have been the last couple years,” Davis said. “But I do know for a fact that if you stay more to the middle of the field, you have a better efficiency in your swing path. You’re more short to the baseball, you’re longer through it, you get better extension .
“So we consistently try to do that, even in batting practice. We’re seeing it pay off and I think that’s why so many guys are buying into it, because they’re seeing better results .”
Yet another indication of how the Mets can maybe stay on this roll over the next seven weeks, and maybe exorcise the Citi demons responsible for a .498 winning percentage at home since Shea was flattened. After Zack Wheeler’s eight scoreless innings Tuesday, the Mets’ rotation improved to 20-11 with a 3.47 ERA at Citi, as compared to 17-22 with a 4.54 ERA on the road.
Alonso gave some credit to the raucous Citi crowd for Monday’s doubleheader sweep, and Michael Conforto said the atmosphere was as electric as he’s ever seen it (which includes two playoff Octobers). That’s quite a departure from the team’s recent history, when Mets have talked about tensing up due to the pressure at home , multiplied by the difficulty of trying to be a run-producer in a hostile place built to thwart them .
Now the Mets actually enjoy playing here. Imagine that.
“It’s hard to explain,” Mickey Callaway said. “We were looking for reasons on why they haven’t performed here in the past. I’m just glad that it has shifted.”
Just in time, too.
The Mets have only four winning seasons at home since moving to Citi Field in 2009:
2011 34-472012 36-45