Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

Mets News

Smith's clutch HR to lift Mets 'pretty special'

@AnthonyDiComo
August 28, 2020

NEW YORK -- In the midst of his emotional press conference earlier this week, Dominic Smith admitted to being mentally drained. He had just gone hitless in a Mets victory that, given the context of the game, the sport and the world at large, hardly seemed to matter. “I wasn’t

NEW YORK -- In the midst of his emotional press conference earlier this week, Dominic Smith admitted to being mentally drained. He had just gone hitless in a Mets victory that, given the context of the game, the sport and the world at large, hardly seemed to matter.

“I wasn’t there today,” Smith said through tears. “But I’ll bounce back. I’ll be fine.”

In the days that followed, Smith became a touchstone of Major League Baseball’s player-driven movement to fight racial injustice. People from throughout the world of sports reached out to Smith offering both tangible and intangible support, as he found himself thrust into a role that, in the words of so many players, was “bigger than baseball.”

On Friday at Yankee Stadium, Smith returned to his normal business -- another job he’s done particularly well. His solo homer in the sixth inning Friday gave the Mets the lead in a 6-4 win over the Yankees in Game 1 of a doubleheader, adding another highlight to Smith’s breakout season.

Box score

“With what he’s lived in the last two days emotionally, and what we lived, too, supporting him as well, it was pretty special for sure,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said.

Trailing all afternoon due to a pair of two-run Yankees rallies off Michael Wacha, the Mets finally clawed back with a run in the fifth and two consecutive singles to open the sixth. Pete Alonso followed with a game-tying three-run homer off Chad Green that snapped an 0-for-13 funk for Alonso at the plate.

With two outs, Smith then muscled a shot over the right-center-field fence. The blast increased his slugging percentage to .733, which would lead the Majors if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. Jake Marisnick followed with another homer to provide the final margin.

“For him, having a couple emotional days and being able to bounce back, and stay locked in … it shows how professional he is,” Rojas said of Smith. “This is a kid that’s bounced from not playing every day to playing every day, and he’s always stayed locked in. His level of concentration, his routine, his preparation to go to an at-bat is definitely something special.”

When the season began, Smith had no clear role on the Mets. Alonso had Smith’s natural position of first base on lockdown. J.D. Davis was the team’s starting left fielder and Yoenis Céspedes was the designated hitter, leaving Smith without an obvious place to play. The presence of a universal DH made even pinch-hit at-bats scarce for Smith, who had just eight plate appearances in the Mets’ first eight games.

Then Céspedes elected not to play the rest of the season, forcing the Mets to revamp their defensive alignment and make Smith a starter. From that point forward, he’s hit .333 with six home runs and 18 RBIs in 20 games. He leads the Mets in homers and RBIs, and would rank among the team leaders in batting average and on-base percentage if he had enough plate appearances to qualify.

And all those numbers do so very little to tell Smith’s full story.

“It’s been an honor getting to lace them up with him,” Wacha said. “I really respect the way he carries himself on the field, and then off the field, everyone’s seen his interviews the past couple of days. It’s amazing the way he carries himself off the field. It’s inspirational. I’ve just learned so much from him. I continue to learn from him. It’s an honor to be around him and be one of his teammates.”

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.