McNeil 'comfortable at plate,' boosts Mets

Second baseman's 2-hit game, Alonso's homer help New York win nightcap

July 11th, 2021

NEW YORK – Before the Mets played a seven-inning doubleheader on Saturday, manager Luis Rojas said he would like to see the offense improve. After all, they entered the day 29th in the Major Leagues in runs scored.

In the second game, the Mets scored enough runs for a 4-2 win over the Pirates to split the twin bill at Citi Field. In Game 1, right-hander Marcus Stroman found out the hard way that left-hander Tyler Anderson could rake and it proved costly as the Bucs won, 6-2.

In the nightcap, gave an indication of what he could do during the second half of the season. He went 2-for-3 to raise his average to .255, and his biggest hit came in the first inning against Pirates right-hander Max Kranick. With two outs, McNeil doubled to right field, scoring Francisco Lindor and Dominic Smith for a 2-0 lead.

“I'm getting comfortable at the plate. I’m starting to see the ball better. I have my barrel awareness,” McNeil said. “It’s back, so I’ve been able to … shoot some balls all over the field. It comes from playing. I missed a good amount of time there. So just getting the amount of ABs, … I’m feeling good again. It’s there. I’m feeling a lot better.”

Rojas can see the difference when a healthy McNeil is at the plate. McNeil missed more than a month this season because of a left hamstring strain.

“This guy is a natural hitter,” Rojas said. “Right now, he is not thinking about anything. He is going in there, finding his pitches and swinging. He is not chasing as much.

“He is going to be a free swinger. He is going to expand a little bit. I thought since coming off the [injured list], he was going out there way too far. … I think he is able to hit the [breaking ball now] and he is getting pitches in the zone. That’s why he is driving the ball better. He has been more disciplined.”

McNeil agrees that scoring runs have been few and far between for the team during the first half of the season. But he believes the offense will be different after the All-Star break.

“We’ve played a lot less innings than everyone else,” McNeil said. “The hits are going to come. We know we have been swinging the bats really well this past week. We are going to improve on that and build. I look forward to a fun second half.”

After the Pirates cut the lead on a Bryan Reynolds single off right-hander Tylor Megill, Mets first baseman Pete Alonso answered by hitting a mammoth solo home run over the left-field wall. His 17th of the season traveled a Statcast-projected 428 feet.

Billy McKinney increased the lead off right-hander Clay Holmes with a single in the bottom of the sixth inning, scoring James McCann.

Megill didn’t pitch long enough (3 2/3 innings and one run allowed) to win his first Major League game, but he tied Dick Selma, Dwight Gooden and Matt Harvey for the most strikeouts (26) in the first four starts of a Mets career.

“That’s a real cool accomplishment to see and to have,” Megill said. ‘I’ll try to get more each outing.”

Megill has a respectable 3.50 ERA, but he has yet to go past the fifth inning. Pitching coach Jeremy Hefner told Megill that he was going to be in the big leagues for a long time and to not get down. They would work the kinks out and get ready for the next start.

“It’s just pitch efficiency,” Megill said. “I keep repeating myself, but I’m having a hard time doing that. I get ahead and then I’m wasting pitches. I’m nowhere near the zone, which is hurting me. I need to be more in the zone with my two-strike pitches.”