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Mets' offense keeps rolling with new-look lineup

@AnthonyDiComo
April 12, 2019

ATLANTA -- Pete Alonso's reward for splashing a 454-foot homer into a pool of water? A seat on the bench the following night. For the second time this season, Mets manager Mickey Callaway bucked popular opinion in resting Alonso on Friday immediately after he hit a memorable home run. This

ATLANTA -- Pete Alonso's reward for splashing a 454-foot homer into a pool of water? A seat on the bench the following night.

For the second time this season, Mets manager Mickey Callaway bucked popular opinion in resting Alonso on Friday immediately after he hit a memorable home run. This was no case of cause-and-effect; Callaway typically writes out his lineups days in advance, albeit with wiggle room in case he wants to shift anything based on injury or performance. For Alonso, Friday was a scheduled off-day. The Mets wanted to not only keep their superstar rookie fresh, but also to find playing time for backup Dominic Smith.

In the outfield, Callaway made a more reactive decision, dropping Brandon Nimmo from leadoff to eighth in the lineup and bumping Jeff McNeil up to first in the order. The moves, for Callaway, worked beautifully. Nimmo hit a two-run homer in the second inning, McNeil added a two-run double in the fourth, Smith reached base twice and the Mets never needed Alonso’s offense in a breezy 6-2 win over the Braves.

“That’s what happens when you have a good team,” Callaway said. “You’re resting Alonso, who’s been crushing the ball, and you really don’t lose anything. You get a big win.”

For the Mets, “big” may be the new normal. They scored at least six runs for the sixth consecutive game, matching a franchise record last achieved in 2007.

“I think it’s sustainable because it’s not just one way,” Callaway said, referring to the Mets’ ability to hit with power, hit to the opposite field and even, as Nimmo did Friday, drop down a well-placed bunt. “You can’t really combat what we’re doing.”

On this night, the Braves did not come particularly close to matching the Mets, who retained their half-game lead over the Phillies in the NL East. After Smith singled with one out in the second inning, Nimmo bashed a two-run homer off Braves starter Kyle Wright, giving the Mets a lead they would not relinquish.

Two innings later, reserve outfielder Keon Broxton sparked a rally with a walk and a stolen base -- his fourth, tied for the National League lead despite only 20 plate appearances to his credit. Nimmo followed with a single, McNeil hit a two-run double and Robinson Cano and Michael Conforto -- the only two Mets yet to take days off this season -- added consecutive RBI doubles.

“The team motto right now from an offensive standpoint is just to pass the torch along,” Nimmo said. “I’ve been the real weakness in the lineup so far and people have picked me up. We’ve been able to do that through most games. So I really think that has been really important. We have the ability to have different guys each and every day pick up the slack.”

In building the Mets’ roster this winter, new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen focused on such offensive depth. He stated multiple times that he wanted to raise not only the Mets’ ceiling, but also their floor, stocking the bench with big league-quality players who could sub in without much drop in production.

The idea was to guard against injuries sapping the roster. But with most of their regulars healthy early in the season, the Mets have made sure to use their depth in different ways. In 13 games, Callaway has written out seven different lineups, never using any of them more than three times. Saturday is likely to bring an eighth variation, with the Mets aiming to rest one or more of their left-handed sluggers – likely including Cano or Conforto for the first time this season.

Keeping everyone fresh, the Mets know, can be a challenge. It can be difficult to sit hitters like Alonso when they are performing well. But the Mets are committed to doing it and, right now, the task hasn’t proven particularly difficult.

“The Mets, we do a good job of making sure all of our guys are mentally prepared for each game,” Smith said. “It’s pretty cool I’m at where I’m at mentally, and you can see it throughout everybody on the team. That’s why we’re playing good baseball right now.”

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.