Polar Bear: 'Be aware of flying baseballs'

After 10-month wait, Alonso punishes first homer at 116 mph

July 28th, 2020

has no sympathy for the cardboard cutouts atop the Green Monster at Fenway Park, where his first home run of the season -- "an absolute bullet," as teammate called it -- ricocheted on Monday before dropping back onto the field in the Mets' 7-4 win over the Red Sox. After finishing with a Major League rookie record 53 homers last season, Alonso had waited 10 months to hit another. To him, it felt like an eternity.

To him, the cardboard cutouts should have seen it coming.

"There is an advisory throughout the ballpark," Alonso said. "You have to be aware of flying baseballs and bats."

If Alonso keeps providing the former over the coming weeks, then the Mets' offense -- all but dormant over the first three games of the season -- won't have much reason to fret. Leaving his bat at 116.3 mph, Alonso's two-run home run highlighted a Mets attack that also included homers from and Smith.

"He did it all year last year," Smith said. "But to see him get into a ball like that, I'm extremely happy for him. I know he was happy to do that."

Like many who watched the Mets' season-opening series against the Braves, manager Luis Rojas noticed that Alonso was not quite himself. Throughout Spring Training and Summer Camp, Alonso routinely chased pitches outside the strike zone -- the type of thing he did so rarely throughout his historic rookie season in 2019. Rojas noted that Alonso was guilty of some similar chases against the Braves, starting his swing a tick late as his stride grew a bit too long at the plate.

In making such observations, Rojas did not worry. To the contrary, he noticed two other things that made him believe the problem would be temporary: a curiosity from Alonso about what he was doing wrong, as well as a willingness to fix it.

"When somebody is under control with his emotions and is able to hear his coaches around him, he can make quick adjustments," Rojas said on Monday afternoon. "That's what we're expecting now."

Mere hours later, Rojas' hunch became reality. In a 1-for-12 skid entering the third inning, Alonso crushed a Jeffrey Springs pitch just over the lip of the Green Monster for his first homer since his record-setting blast last September. It was not only the third-hardest ball Alonso had put into play in his young career, but also tied for the third-hardest homer Statcast has tracked at Fenway Park (trailing shots by Hanley Ramírez in 2018 and Alex Rodriguez in '15).

It was also a microcosm of the Mets' offense as a whole. After scoring five runs in their first three games of the season, the ballclub broke out for seven against the Red Sox, all on homers. Conforto opened the scoring with a 434-foot, two-run blast to left and Smith -- starting at designated hitter over Yoenis Céspedes, who was receiving a routine day off -- added a three-run shot in the fourth.

"What we saw in the first three days is not what this team is," Rojas said.

The offense was plenty for Michael Wacha, who delivered five innings of one-run ball in his Mets debut, and who watched from afar as Seth Lugo picked up a questionable bullpen to nail down a four-out save. It was the type of win that would not have been possible over the weekend, when the Mets' offense simply didn't do enough against the Braves to give their bullpen a chance.

That changed in a hurry at Fenway Park, where Alonso had been eager to play for the first time in his career. Before the game, he wandered over to the Monster, hoping to sign the inside as many players do before their first game at the ballpark. Alonso was unable to do so, however, due to coronavirus protocols.

So he hit a home run on top of it instead.

"I'm feeling really, really comfortable," Alonso said. "Yesterday, I felt comfortable. Today, I felt comfortable. I'm looking to continue that feeling, keep pressing forward, and who knows? Tomorrow could be a 4-for-4 day."