NEW YORK -- Pete Alonso is on a one-man mission to prove that RBIs do, in fact, matter.
To the 2022 Mets, they matter very much.
Modern theory states that RBI is not a particularly useful statistic because it is too reliant upon the performances of other batters in a lineup, too much the product of circumstance. Just try telling that to Alonso, who continues to shatter RBI records while pacing the Mets’ offense. His 105th of the season gave the Mets a 7-6, walk-off win over the Rockies on Friday, handing Alonso sole possession of the franchise record with 25 game-winning RBIs in a season. The previous record holder, Keith Hernandez (24 in 1985), so admires the statistic that he refers to it in a trademark way: as ribeye steaks.
Hungry for one of his own in the ninth inning, Alonso ripped a 101 mph ground ball through the left side of the infield, allowing Brandon Nimmo to race home with the game-winning run. It was the Mets’ sixth walk-off of the season and their 26th come-from-behind victory.
“It’s a privilege to be put in those situations,” Alonso said. “I’m just trying to put the ball in play hard every single time I go up there.”
Few do so better or more consistently than Alonso, who leads the Mets with 31 homers and 54 extra-base hits. But Alonso has been about more than mere power, sporting a career-high .273 batting average and a career-low 19.4% strikeout rate. Put more simply, Alonso is putting the ball in play more often, which has allowed him to make more good things happen.
Many of those have occurred toward the end of games. Take Friday, for example. Following eight innings of volatile baseball that saw Brett Baty crush his first career Citi Field homer, Mark Canha hit a go-ahead double and a game-tying double and reliever Mychal Givens struggle in a three-run eighth, the Mets entered the bottom of the ninth with a chance to do what they do best: “Not panic and just trust how good we are,” as starting pitcher Chris Bassitt defined it.
“Nothing needs to be said,” Canha added. “It’s just kind of looking around and going, ‘OK, it’s time to go to work here.’ … It’s kind of like our thing.”
No one embodies the attitude more obviously than Alonso, whose 25 game-winning RBIs rank fourth-most in the Majors since 1954, only two away from the mark of 27 shared by Willie Mays (‘62) and Joe Torre (‘71). In total, Alonso is on pace for 134 RBIs, which would shatter the franchise record of 124 that Mike Piazza set in ‘99 and David Wright matched in 2008.
Alonso, despite his reputation, has done it as often with singles as he has with homers.
“There’s a certain ego involved there,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Can you imagine having that type of power at your fingertips and in your ability, and be able to kind of get in a little bit and to try to deliver what the team needs? He’s not sneaking up on anybody.”
Two of the Mets’ six walk-offs this season have come courtesy of Alonso, whose six career walk-off RBIs barely tell the story of the type of hitter he’s become. Less than 20 minutes after Friday’s game ended, Alonso sat alone at an unused ping-pong table in the clubhouse, writing down notes about his at-bats. It’s a practice he’s utilized throughout his professional career as a way to remember how pitchers attacked him in past games.
In that way, Alonso has managed to improve, just as the Mets have managed to achieve continued success. From the perspective of the home dugout, Friday’s game could easily have been about Givens’ performance, or Showalter’s quick hook of Bassitt, or any number of other more incendiary storylines. Instead, Nimmo worked a one-out walk off Rockies closer Daniel Bard in the ninth, Starling Marte was hit by a pitch and, two batters later, Alonso followed with his two-out game-winner.
“As long as they’ve got an out left, these guys are going to continue to grind,” Showalter said. “It’s a lot of fun to be a part of and to watch.”