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Alonso continues historic 1st half with 30th HR

Mets slugger is 3rd rookie all-time to reach mark before All-Star break
@AnthonyDiComo
July 7, 2019

NEW YORK -- Asked Sunday about his T-Mobile Home Run Derby strategy, Pete Alonso laughed. “Hit more homers than everyone else,” he said. As a tactic, it may seem simple, yet few are as qualified as Alonso to execute it. The Mets rookie capped his colossal first half with the

NEW YORK -- Asked Sunday about his T-Mobile Home Run Derby strategy, Pete Alonso laughed. “Hit more homers than everyone else,” he said.

As a tactic, it may seem simple, yet few are as qualified as Alonso to execute it. The Mets rookie capped his colossal first half with the type of opposite-field home run that has defined it, going deep against Aaron Nola in the sixth inning of Sunday's 8-3 loss to become one of three rookies in Major League history to hit at least 30 home runs before the All-Star break.

“I’m living out a fantasy right now,” Alonso said at Citi Field, before boarding a private jet to Cleveland with the Mets’ other All-Stars. “I’m extremely blessed, and I’m very thankful. I just want to keep showing my gratitude by working hard, and busting it innings one through nine, and giving my all every single day here. I don’t know when my career could end. It could end tomorrow, or it could end 15 years from now. I don’t know when my jersey’s going to be taken away from me. I just want to capitalize on every single opportunity I have up here.”

On the eve of the Derby, Alonso cranked a Nola curveball 396 feet to right-center field for the Mets’ first hit of the game. That extended his National League rookie record for home runs before the All-Star break to 30, matching Aaron Judge’s total in 2017. Only Mark McGwire hit more before the break as a rookie, with 33 in 1987.

Alonso also logged his 67th and 68th RBIs to set an NL rookie record before midseason. He leads all rookies in homers, RBI, extra-base hits, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, total bases, runs, hits, multi-hit games, doubles and walks. And he is one home run shy of Christian Yelich for a share of the overall Major League lead.

Wait, there’s more. Alonso on Sunday joined Dave Kingman in 1976 as the only Mets to hit 30 homers before the All-Star break, and moved within 11 homers of the franchise record for a full season of 41, which Todd Hundley set in 1996 and Carlos Beltran matched 10 years later.

“He’s a slugger,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “Not only is he a slugger, but he can hit.”

To demonstrate his point, Callaway referenced an adjustment Alonso made in the sixth inning against Nola, who had permitted just three baserunners -- via two walks and a Rhys Hoskins fielding error -- up to that point. Earlier in the day, Alonso had shifted up in the batter’s box, trying to counteract the types of low breaking pitches that Nola threw him in a game last month. When he realized he was a tick off in his first two at-bats Sunday, Alonso scooted up another little bit.

Sure enough, Nola threw a knucklecurve and Alonso didn’t wait for it to drop, bashing it to right-center field. Of Alonso’s 30 home runs, 18 have gone to straightaway center or right.

That’s not necessarily a skill that will help him in the pull-happy Home Run Derby, but it speaks to his overall effectiveness as a slugger. Just four months ago, there were no guarantees that Alonso would even make the Mets’ Opening Day roster. Now, he’s an All-Star and one of baseball’s top hitters.

“When I got up here, I was just really thankful,” Alonso said. “There’s a lot of people that kind of rolled the dice to see what would happen, and I’m really thankful for that. I just want to make the most out of every single opportunity. I just want to keep getting better.”

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