NEW YORK -- Speaking about his young second baseman a few hours before Monday's 6-4 win over the Reds at Citi Field, Mets manager Mickey Callaway noted, in rather stark terms, that Jeff McNeil's performance down the stretch may determine whether the team looks to replace him during the offseason."I
NEW YORK -- Speaking about his young second baseman a few hours before Monday's 6-4 win over the Reds at Citi Field, Mets manager Mickey Callaway noted, in rather stark terms, that Jeff McNeil's performance down the stretch may determine whether the team looks to replace him during the offseason.
"I think we need to, first and foremost, evaluate ... is this guy going to be a kid that we might not have to go find a second baseman over the winter?" Callaway said. "That's kind of where we're at right now."
Ultimately, that decision will not be up to Callaway. It may not be up to anyone currently employed in the Mets' front office. All McNeil can do is continue to state his case, which he did Monday in homering as part of a three-hit night.
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With the Mets already leading by five runs in the sixth, McNeil bashed a Keury Mella pitch to right field for his second homer, finishing 3-for-4 to boost his average to .364. Starting regularly at second base, McNeil has rapped out eight hits in his last three games.
"I really like his approach right now," Callaway said. "He's going the other way. He's able to get the [bat] head out, and then when they make a big mistake, maybe he can pop one out every now and again."
Two of McNeil's hits came against Reds starter Homer Bailey, who allowed 11 in 3 1/3 innings. Among the others: Wilmer Flores singled three times, drove home two runs and reached base safely four times on his 27th birthday, and Kevin Plawecki homered to lead off the fourth.
"Guys that we had very passive [in the scouting report] were actually swinging at a lot of first pitches," Bailey said. "I guess our game plan was a little bit wrong."
The offensive outburst provided enough of a cushion for Mets starter Noah Syndergaard, who held the Reds scoreless before allowing four consecutive batters to reach base in the seventh inning, to record his third win in his last four outings.
In a bubble, that victory did little for a Mets team well out of contention in the National League East. But Callaway and other decision-makers are watching these games with an eye toward next summer, trying to deduce where the Mets must fill holes. Among their most pressing issues is at second base, which Asdrubal Cabrera manned for most of this season. With Cabrera now in Philadelphia and unlikely to return, the Mets could pursue a free agent such as James Dozier, DJ LeMahieu or, yes, Manny Machado if they can stomach the cost.
How McNeil fares in August and September will at least play a small role in that decision.
"It's not going to be the be all, end all," assistant manager John Ricco said, "but two months is still a third of the season. So you can make some evaluations based on that."
"It's definitely a showcase for me," McNeil said. "I'm just trying to go out there every single day and play hard, just play my game. I know if I just play my game, everything will take care of itself."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Test time: Recently stressing the importance of testing his young relievers in significant spots, Callaway gave rookie Bobby Wahl an opportunity in the seventh with the bases loaded, one out and NL MVP Award runner-up Joey Votto at the plate. Wahl locked into an eight-pitch battle with Votto, who walked to force in a run, but he rebounded to strike out All-Star Scooter Gennett.
Preferring sinkerballer Robert Gsellman's chances against Eugenio Suarez, Callaway removed Wahl from the game at that point. Suarez promptly singled home two more runs before Gsellman struck out Mason Williams to strand the tying runs on base.
"I was very curious to see," Callaway said of Wahl's appearance. "I'm very curious about all of those guys to see those situations pop up where they have to come in and it's pressure-packed, and see if they can do the job."
Finishing 3-for-4 with two RBIs, Flores became the 11th Met to record three hits on his birthday and the first since Jeromy Burnitz in 2003. No Met has recorded more than three hits on his birthday.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
With Gsellman already done for the night and Anthony Swarzak on the disabled list, Callaway turned to Jerry Blevins for the game's final three outs. The veteran left-hander recorded all three in succession to record his first save of the season and the sixth of his career. Four of those have come in the past three seasons.
CEREMONIAL FIRST PITCH
Mets legend Ed Kranepool, who has largely stayed away from Citi Field in recent years as he battles health issues, threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Monday's game. A Met from 1962-79, Kranepool hopes to find a kidney donor that will allow him to undergo a transplant. The Mets are encouraging potential donors to contact Stony Brook Transplant Hospital.
HE SAID IT
"I felt pretty mediocre out there. I didn't feel like I had the best stuff in terms of mechanics, in terms of stuff. I was able to go out there and survive through six. I just kind of ran out of gas in the seventh." -- Syndergaard, on his start
Jason Vargas has made two starts since coming off the disabled list, posting a 6.75 ERA in those outings. The owner of an 8.23 ERA overall this season, Vargas will look for more significant progress when he returns to the mound Tuesday in a 7:10 p.m. ET game against the Reds. Right-hander Sal Romano will start for Cincinnati.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.