Stewart's resurgence hits another peak with decisive double

September 10th, 2023

MINNEAPOLIS -- had struck out three times against Minnesota right-hander Pablo López and was facing a two-strike count against reliever Griffin Jax in the ninth inning on Sunday.

Stewart, the Mets' right fielder, said two thoughts ran through his mind. “Don’t strike out again,” he said. “You got another opportunity to help the team win.”

Stewart bounced back with a two-run double to the right-center-field gap and helped New York to a 2-0 win in Minnesota against the American League Central-leading Twins at Target Field.

“You’ve got two choices there,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “You’ve got an opportunity to take a challenging day and turn it into something good. But I was really proud of him, like I was for [Francisco Lindor] for running the ball out and being on second.”

Scoreless into the ninth inning after strong performances from López and New York starter Tylor Megill, the Mets pulled out the win to stop a three-game losing streak.

Lindor hit a shallow popup to left field that ended up falling in play as left fielder Matt Wallner made a diving attempt at a catch. Lindor ran it out and ended up at second. Jeff McNeil was then hit by a pitch -- the third New York player to be hit by a pitch on Sunday. After Pete Alonso struck out, Stewart came through with the game-winning hit.

“I don't get that situation if Frankie doesn’t hustle out of the box,” Stewart said. “Most guys you see, if they hit a popup like that, they’re mad and just stay at first base. But that doesn’t happen without the hustle from him, so glad to have him on my team.”

And Stewart is making the most of his chances, both on Sunday and down the final stretch this season.

The 29-year-old Stewart is hitting .323 with four doubles, 10 homers, 21 RBIs and a 1.217 OPS over his last 18 games.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” Stewart said. “I’m just fortunate for the opportunities that I’m getting, helping the team any way I can. Happy to be healthy. Been dealing with some small things that have kept me off the field. But obviously, any time you get the opportunity to play and help the team win, it feels really good.”

Stewart was in his second game back after missing three games with an injury to his back and side.

“Just trying to maintain it, so I don’t blow out anything and miss more time than needed,” Stewart said. “Still feel [it] a little bit, but it’s not anywhere near what it was.”

A game-winning hit should make him feel better.

Stewart was out of the lineup on Friday as Jax made an appearance against the Mets in the first game of the series. But Stewart had paid attention.

“Kind of saw his stuff a little bit in that game just watching,” Stewart said. “Knew he was a good pitcher, but he left one over the plate for me to hit, executed.”

While Starling Marte continues to rehab a groin injury, Stewart has had a chance to establish himself in right field. In 40 games with New York this season, after parts of five seasons with the Orioles, Stewart has 11 home runs, one off his career-best total in 2021 when he played in 100 games. Stewart entered play Sunday with a .982 OPS.

Sunday’s late at-bat is another good sign that he may be able to eclipse that career-high homer total.

“That’s what guys do at this level,” Showalter said. “You got a choice to make. There’s an opportunity. The game will let you up off the deck and that was his opportunity. … You’re down two strikes and you’ve got two choices there. He fouled off some tough pitches, stuck his nose in there and got it done against one of their better relievers.”