Nimmo's go-ahead homer elicits the ultimate 'Hell yeah!'

July 30th, 2022

MIAMI -- There is a boringness to Brandon Nimmo at this point in his career. A sameness. When healthy, Nimmo has been as consistent a hitter as there is in baseball. He bats leadoff every day. He reaches base often. He hits for some power. He goes to bed nightly, then he does it again.

So it was noticeable when Nimmo fell into a 5-for-34 slump entering Friday’s play, producing -- do not adjust your monitors -- a .194 on-base percentage and zero extra-base hits over that stretch. It vexed him. And in true Nimmo fashion, it did not last long. The outfielder hit a go-ahead, two-run homer off the facing of the loanDepot park upper deck in the eighth inning, leading the Mets to a 6-4 win over the Marlins.

“Just a real desire to want to come through for the guys,” was how Nimmo described his mindset. “And so when I got a hold of it, I was pretty ecstatic.”

By all outward appearances, he was overjoyed. As Nimmo crossed home plate, he bashed elbows with teammate Starling Marte. He double high-fived Eduardo Escobar, then let out a yell and wrapped his arm around Escobar’s back. More high fives awaited Nimmo in the dugout, where he screamed “Hell yeah!” three times as he walked the length of it.

That PG-13 exclamation has become a clubhouse joke for Nimmo, who often shouts it around teammates who poke fun at him for his upright nature. But there was real emotion to Nimmo’s words on this night, considering the depth of his slump. In addition to his eighth-inning homer off Steven Okert, who took the loss, Nimmo doubled home a run and scored another on Marte’s game-tying triple in the second.

“It gets pretty difficult for these teams when me and Nimmo are doing what we do,” said Marte, who also homered and finished a double shy of the cycle.

In the past, when Nimmo has slumped, it has generally been due to physical ailments -- a bulging disc in his neck in 2019, for example, or a torn finger ligament last summer, both of which he tried to play through with varying levels of success. Injuries have long been a part of his story, but slumps with no explanation? Those, as Nimmo put it, “don’t make sense to you.”

To seek answers, Nimmo hunkered down in the batting cage, where hitting coaches Eric Chavez and Jeremy Barnes applied various fixes. Part of Nimmo’s issue was mechanical, which the coaches attempted to correct. But in focusing on those pulleys and levers, Nimmo found himself becoming clunky. His attention began falling more to his mechanical checkpoints than to his plate approach, which uncharacteristically suffered. Entering Friday’s play, he hadn’t drawn a single walk in his last 35 plate appearances, which was decidedly un-Nimmo-like.

“In hitting, we want to focus on principles and concepts over, ‘I’m going to put my hands here and my foot here’ -- the dots,” Barnes said. “It’s easy to get caught up in the dots.

“There’s no magic pill to this game,” Barnes continued. “You’ve just got to stay consistent and kind of grind through it. A lot of times, you’re putting in work that you’re not going to reap any rewards for, for a week, maybe two weeks and three weeks. But then all of the sudden, it explodes out.”

For Nimmo, the explosion came at the expense of both Okert, a lefty, and Marlins starter Sandy Alcantara, an early favorite to win the National League Cy Young Award. Nimmo and Marte finished a combined 5-for-10 with two home runs, a triple, a double, three runs scored and all six of the Mets’ RBIs, lifting their own starting pitcher Chris Bassitt out of an early three-run deficit and moving the Mets to 25 games over .500 for the first time since 2006. Those were all good things.

Better still might be the notion that Nimmo has unlocked something repeatable -- the type of “Hell yeah!” moment that could portend more of them in the future.

“It’s obviously a positive note to build on,” Nimmo said. “But also, you don’t show up to the field the next day and think you’ve got everything figured out. So it’s still a work in progress, and I’m still going to be trying to get better.”