Alvarez blasts Mets' longest homer of '23 to win game

467-foot drive gives 21-year-old a club rookie record for home runs as primary catcher

July 5th, 2023

PHOENIX -- Francisco Alvarez is no stranger to long home runs. As a prospect, some scouts tagged Alvarez with 70-grade power, close to the highest number available on the traditional 20-80 scale. During his days playing for High-A Brooklyn at Coney Island, Alvarez claims to have hit one into the amusement park beyond the left-field fence -- a shot that would require a ball to bounce, unobstructed, for more than 600 feet.

Fact or fable? Alvarez’s raw power is significant enough that it can be difficult to tell.

At the highest level, however, Alvarez had yet to flaunt his power like this. He cranked a 467-foot go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh inning Tuesday at Chase Field, lifting the Mets to an 8-5 victory over the D-backs and their first three-game winning streak in more than a month.

“Awesome” was how winning pitcher Max Scherzer put it.

“I knew immediately that it was gone,” Alvarez said through an interpreter.

“It’s a 21-year-old catcher making adjustments on the fly,” manager Buck Showalter said, “seeing things and growing from them little by little.”

For Alvarez, the at-bat in question did not begin well. Unable to check his swing on a 97-mph sinker that ran in on his hands, Alvarez instead fouled it off. He took a half-swing at Miguel Castro’s next pitch, another sinker in a similar spot, saying later that he was looking for a slider. But Alvarez managed to fight off two additional sinkers before Castro made a mistake with one, leaving it over the heart of the plate.

Having seen the pitch four times in the at-bat, Alvarez knew what to do with it, lifting the ball over an embankment that hangs over the left-center-field fence. He nearly hit a piece of bunting that stadium workers had hung to celebrate the Fourth of July.

“Once you see the ball going that far, your emotions start to heighten because you know the significance of that moment -- we took the lead,” Alvarez said. “It was a really exciting moment there.”

Upon going deep, Alvarez kept his bat in his hand for several steps as he watched it fly. Finally, he ditched the lumber and rounded the bases.

An inning and a half earlier, Scherzer had walked in a game-tying run but managed to quell the rally, striking out Christian Walker to strand the bases loaded. Operating at far from his best, Scherzer struck out nine batters in six innings, but he allowed three solo homers.

The Mets responded with three home runs of their own and made them more impactful; Starling Marte hit a three-run shot, Brandon Nimmo added a solo homer and Alvarez gave the Mets the lead for good with his blast. A pair of additional late rallies provided some wiggle room for closer David Robertson, who stranded the tying run with the bases loaded in the ninth.

As for Alvarez, the 467-foot shot -- which passed Pete Alonso's 448-foot homer for the longest by a Met this season -- was his second homer in three games this month after he ended June on a 49-plate appearance dry spell. Such streakiness can be inherent for most players, and especially for rookies such as Alvarez, who remains the youngest position player in the Majors.

Even so, his upside is obvious. Alvarez now owns the Mets’ rookie record for home runs as a primary catcher with 14, passing Travis d’Arnaud (13 homers in 2014). Mike Piazza holds the overall club record among catchers with 35 homers in 1993.

Throughout his young career, Alvarez has often drawn Piazza comparisons, which are both unfair yet inevitable. The younger Met has shown what he can do. From late April through early June, Alvarez enjoyed his finest hot streak to date, hitting 11 homers with a .987 OPS over a 33-game stretch.

The longest homer of his career may not be quite the same thing as such an extended run of production, but it provides a strong bit of evidence that Alvarez can be that player more consistently in the future.

“I think I’m slowly but surely getting back there,” Alvarez said. “I don’t think I’m back to that same level where I was that month that I was playing really well, but I think little by little, I’m getting there.”