DENVER -- About once a year as a child, Brandon Nimmo and his family would make the roughly two-hour drive from their home in Cheyenne, Wyo., to take in a Rockies game at Coors Field. Nimmo idolized Todd Helton, obsessing over the way he drove balls to the opposite field. Once, a Rockies bullpen catcher tossed Nimmo a stray baseball, which he keeps in his childhood home to this day.
Plenty of other Wyomingites made that same trek down I-25 on Monday, streaming in from points north to watch one of their own. Hopefully, they were punctual. Nimmo became the first player in Mets history to lead off a game with an inside-the-park home run, tacking on a second homer later in a 12-2 win over the Rockies.
"I think everybody knew he was capable of playing at an elite level," manager Mickey Callaway said. "But this is pretty elite."
Pardon Nimmo's supporters if they were still settling into their seats when Tyler Anderson grooved an 0-2 cutter over the heart of the plate, where New York's breakout outfielder bashed it 396 feet to the base of the right-center-field wall. As the ball popped up and dribbled back onto the outfield grass, Nimmo raced around the bases in 14.70 seconds, the fifth-fastest time Statcast™ has recorded since its inception three years ago.
Nimmo, who also hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the Mets' comeback win over the D-backs on Sunday, could have jogged around the bases when he hit yet another homer to lead off the seventh against reliever Harrison Musgrave. (As is his style, Nimmo chose to half-jog, half-sprint.) He finished 4-for-6 with his third consecutive multi-hit game, a career-high four RBIs and the longest home run -- the second shot traveled a projected 449 feet -- of his career.
"It's sometimes tough to show up to the field the next day because you have to put that day behind you," Nimmo said of his Arizona heroics. "It doesn't get a whole lot better than yesterday, being able to help the team win, hit essentially the game-winning home run. And then today, being able to do that in front of the family, that sure gave it a run for its money."
Wilmer Flores and Devin Mesoraco also homered in the Mets' third straight victory, giving starter Jacob deGrom an almost dreamlike level of support. Entering the night, the Mets had won two of deGrom's previous 10 starts despite his 0.87 ERA over that stretch. While deGrom was not perfect in this one -- he allowed three extra-base hits, including Gerardo Parra's RBI double in the second inning -- he was plenty good enough, limiting the damage to one earned run and one unearned run in eight innings.
The Mets were glad to gift him the offense, considering how often this season they've mustered little to none. They could thank Coors Field for some of it, but mostly, they could thank Nimmo, who has already set career highs in just about every major offensive category. The most eye-popping of those are his 12 home runs, which Nimmo sees as a function of his mechanical work over the past three years. Most notably, Nimmo has shifted closer to home plate. He has shortened his stride. He has attempted, like many, to elevate the ball more often.
The result is one of five players in baseball with at least 12 home runs and an OPS above 1.000: Michael Trout, J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and Nimmo.
"I was always, in my approach, looking for a good pitch to hit to try to drive," Nimmo said. "Now, I'm just doing it a little more often. That's pretty encouraging. That's really nice. That's actually a pretty dangerous player."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Mets rally late: In case deGrom's victory was in doubt, the Mets added six runs in the ninth inning to seal the game. Mesoraco and Jose Bautista both walked with the bases loaded and Amed Rosario, who finished 3-for-5, knocked home two runs with a double. Nimmo followed with his fourth and final hit, a two-run single back up the middle.
"That was huge," Callaway said. "[deGrom] needed that. It was kind of close when he was pitching most of the game, but they ended up spreading it out for him. That was good to see."
Inside-the-park home runs are rare. Inside-the-park home runs to lead off games are rarer still. Nimmo became the first Mets player to accomplish the feat, though two others -- Charlie Neal at the Polo Grounds in 1963, and Angel Pagan at Citi Field in 2009 -- did so to lead off the bottom of the first.
The last Major Leaguer to lead off the game with an inside-the-parker was Chris Taylor of the Dodgers last September. The last Met to hit one in any context was Ruben Tejada in 2015.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The Mets' finest defensive play came courtesy of Flores, who dove to snare a Parra line drive in the fourth. Although Flores did not appear to tag Trevor Story as the Rockies shortstop attempted to retreat to first base, umpire Bill Welke called Story out of the baseline. The play potentially saved deGrom a run, and kept his pitch count low.
HE SAID IT
"It was just a blast. I had a great time. It was way better than Dippin' Dots." -- Nimmo, who used to enjoy coming to Coors Field as a child because he was allowed to have ice cream
For as long as Noah Syndergaard remains on the disabled list, Jason Vargas' place in the Mets' rotation is secure. In the meantime, Vargas will look to keep strengthening his resume when he starts Tuesday at Coors Field. Shaky early this season, Vargas owns a 3.00 ERA over his last three starts, though he hasn't gone deeper than five innings in any of them. He'll oppose Rockies right-hander German Marquez in the 8:40 p.m. ET game.