Pass the baton: New hero sparks Mets

April 3rd, 2019

MIAMI -- A note to opposing clubs game planning against : Shift at your own risk.

Much like he did the previous night, Smith beat the defensive shift during a five-run first inning in the Mets’ 6-5 win over the Marlins on Tuesday at Marlins Park.

“Dom's in a great mental state,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “He's confident, he's pumped up that he's here. You see the energy he's bringing every day. I think he's in a really good spot.”

Smith, who got his first start of the season at first base, with top prospect Pete Alonso resting on a scheduled off-day, has embraced the club’s contact approach at the plate and sprays the ball to the opposite field.

The left-handed-hitting Smith batted in the first with the Mets up 1-0 and the bases loaded with one out. He found a hole at short on an 0-1 pitch. According to Statcast, Smith went out of the zone for the 95.4 mph fastball, recording an 82.5 mph exit velocity with his RBI single.

Had the defense played Smith straight up, Marlins right-hander Jose Urena might’ve gotten a potential inning-ending double play. Instead, 10 batters would come to the plate in the five-run first.

In Monday night’s go-ahead, four-run ninth, Smith also slapped a ground ball through the infield to lead off the inning. The rally set up Alonso’s first career homer.

Entering Tuesday -- with a very small sample size -- Smith faced a shift twice in five plate appearances, with a .293 wOBA with no shift and a .785 wOBA with one. In 2018, clubs shifted on Smith 71.6 percent of the time. As a team, the Mets ranked fifth in the Majors with a .393 wOBA against the shift. Callaway anticipates opposing clubs will begin to stop shifting against the Mets should this trend continue.

“It's really how I approach the game pretty much my whole career,” said Smith, who finished 2-for-5 on Tuesday (both hits beating the shift). “Last year was the first year they really shifted me a lot. It was just an adjustment period, but if they're going to give it to me, then of course. You take what the team gives you.”

Nimmo struck by pitch

Brandon Nimmo exited after an 89.5 mph fastball struck the knuckle on his left ring finger -- leaving lace marks -- during the seventh inning. Preliminary X-rays came back negative, and he will be re-evaluated on Wednesday.

“Optimistic, glad it wasn’t a break,” Nimmo said after the game. “I like the strength that I have in that hand right now, but again, you put a bat in there and the swelling sets in, we’ll just see how it feels. Could wake up and it could feel just fine tomorrow.”

Nimmo, who checked his swing on the 2-2 offering from Marlins left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, took his base and was credited with an RBI hit-by-pitch after a replay review overturned the original call. However, Keon Broxton replaced Nimmo in left field in the bottom of the inning. 

“It’s really hard to tell right after it’s stiff and tender, but my first inclination would be it’s not as severe as the two that happened last year, so I’m optimistic about that,” Nimmo said. “It’s really going to depend on how the swelling sets in tomorrow and how it feels tomorrow.”

Bullpen goes according to plan 

With closer Edwin Diaz (29 pitches on Monday) and setup man Jeurys Familia (17 pitches) unavailable on Tuesday, the Mets turned to the trio of Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson to close things out. 

After Lugo loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the eighth, the southpaw Wilson came in and recorded two outs, preserving the lead.

Wilson returned in the ninth and hit leadoff batter Lewis Brinson. Peter O'Brien lined out sharply to short, then pinch-hitter Chad Wallach singled before a baserunning gaffe at second allowed Amed Rosario to turn a game-ending double play on a liner. 

“You just want to go out there and do what you've done,” said Wilson, who recorded his first save since July 29, 2017. “[Go with what] got you here and kept you here, really. It's maybe a little bit more of an adrenaline rush sometimes, but you come out tied in the seventh or eighth and it's kind of the same thing.”