Even Alvarez was no match against the Mets as they continue to roll
Henderson Alvarez of the Miami Marlins knew how to keep the New York Mets scoreless for 20.0 innings, a streak that was the longest active in the majors for a pitcher against an opponent. That ended Friday night at Citi Field as the Mets, with a rejuvenated offense continued to win at home with a 7-1 win.
Alvarez may have caught the Mets at the wrong time, a team that has suddenly found a proficiency to hit the home run ball at home. Lucas Duda and David Wright hit long shots to right and left in the third and fifth innings that opened a 6-1 lead for New York, a season high-tying two home runs yielded by Alvarez and the right-hander had allowed two runs or fewer in his last nine games.
“My pitches weren't really working today,” Alvarez explained through a translator. “I was leaving some pitches up in the zone. I just wish it was like the last 10 starts."
Duda and Wright got the right pitches. And the home run by Wright, his eighth, off a 0-2 pitch reached the second deck in left. Wright also had a career tying four-hits, adding further evidence that his swing has returned. That can only make the Mets offense get even better, two games before the all-star break.
“I’m kind of lucky, because a lot of guys around me are hitting well,” commented Wright who is hitting .385 after sitting out a week with a sore left shoulder.
He added: “As cliché as it sounds, hitting is contagious. We get some guys on in front of me, we get some guys swinging the bat well behind me, and you definitely feel more comfortable. It seems like every at-bat, every other at-bat, you’re getting put up there with runners in scoring position, and that’s a good feeling being a middle-of-the-lineup type hitter.”
The Mets are swinging the bats and it was always said that would help Wright. But what has been the reason for a sudden surge of home runs, especially at Citi Field? The same ballpark, that has always been a supposed excuse for the lack of power in the Mets lineup, has suddenly become a home run haven.
“It's really hard to describe what it's like playing here in the early season when it's cold and it's damp and the ball just doesn't go anywhere," the manager Terry Collins said. "We told them, `Look, when it starts to warm up, it's a different park. It's a fair park."
Coming into the game Friday night, his team had the most home runs in the National League since June 17th and 25 in their last 23 games.
It does not take a wizard to be aware what is taking place. Collins, during this 10-game homestand continues to refer how his team is swinging at better pitches, and the hits and home runs were supposed to be coming at this rate the first three months of the season.
During this 6-2 stretch of games at home with the Rangers, Braves, and Marlins, prior to the All-Star break, the Mets are looking like a team that could make a run in the second half. And with the Braves not looking like a team that could run away with the division title, and the Nationals not taking control, in between are the Marlins leading the Mets by two games in third place.
“We can do some damage in the second half,” Wright said. Again, it must be reminded, before the break last season, the Mets were on a streak. There was optimism and momentum and as bad as mediocre as they were, there was the talk of making a second half run.
But, those hopes quickly diminished as they reverted to losing one series after another as the second half progressed.
“We keep rolling, keep playing well, get some offense we can pick up where we left off,” commented Duda who has been driving the ball more to left and right center. He also said that the bats of Wright and Daniel Murphy, who are hitting consistently, are important for any success in the second half.
And, Duda has quietly tied Curtis Granderson for the team lead in home runs with 14. He has reached safely in 17 of his last 18 games.
Getting runs on the board and adding more, that has also been a major part of this resurged and improved offense, something Alvarez did not experience in his previous three outings against the Mets. More so, Zach Wheeler continues to get better with each start, and it helps that he got the early lead and had the runs to protect the lead.
Juan Lagares got another start in center and tied his career high with three hits. His two-out double in the second led to a run on an RBI single from Ruben Tejada who also is a part of this Mets resurgence at the plate. Tejada is hitting .288 since May 25th and reached safely in 22 of his last 39 games.
“It's always nice to go out there and pitch with some runs on the board," Wheeler (5-8) said. “This is how I wanted to end my first half, going in strong.” He pitched 6/2-3 innings and had an RBI double, improving to 2-0 with a 1.03 ERA in five career starts against the Marlins.
Said Collins about Wheeler “He’s getting to know what he’s got to do to get outs at this level. If we continue to execute on the offensive side, this guy is going to win a lot of games in the second half.” The changeup also has better command and the velocity on pitches has been consistent.
Still plenty of time, but there is a feeling the Mets are having fun and would rather not see a four-day break after the series finale with the Marlins on Sunday.
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