LOS ANGELES -- For the better part of 30 years, Darryl Strawberry has stood mostly unquestioned as the foremost power hitter in Mets history. And while no one is approaching Strawberry’s franchise record of 252 home runs anytime soon, Pete Alonso is cranking home runs at a rate that on some levels, even Strawberry never did.
By hitting two more homers on Wednesday in the Mets’ 9-8 loss to the Dodgers, Alonso set a Mets rookie record for homers in a calendar month, with 10. His 19 total homers are tied with Mark McGwire’s record for the most by a rookie before June 1, and stand just seven shy of Strawberry’s franchise rookie record of 26, set in 1983.
Pardon Alonso if his sights are now set higher. At this rate, he’ll pass Strawberry in a matter of weeks, leaving only one thing untouched: the overall franchise record for home runs in a season, which Carlos Beltran and Todd Hundley share with 41. Alonso? He’s on pace for 56.
“That’s incredible,” Alonso said. “But, ultimately, I’m just trying to help this team win. That’s it. I’m forever grateful for this opportunity given to me. I just want to keep working hard and keep trying to capitalize on every opportunity that I have, day in and day out.”
Alonso’s most recent homers came off Dodgers starter Walker Buehler, both immediately following Dominic Smith singles. After Smith reached base in the first inning, Alonso hit a two-run blast 408 feet to center to give the Mets an early lead. Four innings later, Smith singled again and Alonso followed with a 368-foot drive over the shorter wall down the left-field line, giving him the third multihomer game of his young career.
“This is the first time we’ve seen Alonso,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “This guy’s got big power., Ball down and away, taking it the other way. Cut fastball in and hit a homer. They are dynamic and kind of pesky in the best possible way.”
For Alonso, the only thing spoiling Wednesday’s performance was the Mets’ loss -- a walk-off affair, with the Dodgers scoring four runs in the ninth off normally steady closer Edwin Diaz.
It was a disturbing defeat for the Mets, no doubt. It was also a game that underscored how much they have come to depend on Alonso.
“He’s very talented, and he works, and he’s prepared,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “He’s out there early, hitting off the high-velo machine in early hitting, and comes out tonight and hits a couple of homers. He’s prepared, and has talent, and has confidence.”
Those qualities have allowed Alonso, in barely a third of a season, to put an early stamp on the franchise record books.
The Mets’ history of power hitters is short enough that Alonso has already cracked the Top 100 on the club’s all-time home run list. While Strawberry sits on top, his relatively short career in Flushing kept that record within reach for others. David Wright threatened it early in his career, before injuries interfered. Mike Piazza probably most resembled Alonso with his right-handed swing, but he was nearly 30 by the time he arrived in New York. Beltran, Hundley, Dave Kingman and others spent too little time with the Mets to threaten Strawberry’s mark.
Whether Alonso challenges it someday remains to be seen; much can still happen in his career, which is only in its infancy. He’s simply reaching heights at the start of it that even his most powerful forebears never did.
“It’s just hard work and preparation,” Alonso said. “I take great pride in studying video, reviewing scouting reports, knowing who’s behind the dish, knowing especially the guy on the mound, and taking each day, day by day. Every at-bat, every day, doesn’t have a bearing on the next. So I want to be the best I possibly can for the next at-bat, and that’s all that matters.”