Alonso moves up in Mets' history books with another HR

April 21st, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO -- ’s home runs come in all shapes and sizes. As adept at hitting line drives to the opposite field as he is at slamming moon shots to the upper reaches of stadiums, Alonso simply hits homers. He hits them as well as anyone. And he is currently hitting them more often than anyone.
Alonso’s ninth homer of the season on Thursday not only pushed the Mets toward their seventh win in eight games, this one 9-4 over the Giants at Oracle Park, but it also matched the franchise record for home runs in March and April of a single season. Alonso had already owned a share of that mark with nine homers over the first month-plus of his rookie year in 2019, joining John Buck, Carlos Delgado, Dave Kingman and Neil Walker.
This time, he still has nine April games remaining to claim the record for himself.
“You can tell Pete feels real good about seeing the ball well,” manager Buck Showalter said. “When he gets something he can handle, he puts a good swing on it.”

That’s precisely what happened in the fourth inning Thursday, when Alonso turned on a Sean Manaea sinker that the Giants lefty delivered belt-high on the inner edge of the strike zone. Barely clearing the left-field fence, the home run was one of Alonso’s shorter efforts of a tape-measure month, landing 366 feet from home. Yet they all count the same for Alonso, who moved into sole possession of fifth place on the Mets’ all-time homer list:
1. Darryl Strawberry, 252
2. David Wright, 242
3. Mike Piazza, 220
4. Howard Johnson, 192
5. Alonso, 155

Alonso also passed two other Mets to match Rusty Staub for 13th place on the team’s all-time RBI list:
10. Keith Hernandez, 468
11. Kevin McReynolds, 456
12. Daniel Murphy, 402
13-t. Staub, 399
13-t. Alonso, 399
In his fourth Major League start, received plenty of additional run support. also homered, hit a solo shot while reaching base safely in all five of his plate appearances and  collected three more hits to give him eight in two games. But Alonso’s homer proved most impactful, giving the Mets a lead they would never relinquish.

In some ways, this hot streak is familiar for Alonso, who has enjoyed his share of homer binges over his first four seasons. In other ways, this is different for a player on pace to hit 73 in the early going. Most notably, Alonso entered Thursday’s play featuring the finest plate discipline metrics of his career. He had chased just 24.9% of pitches out of the strike zone, compared to his career average of 32%. Even last year, in bashing 40 homers, Alonso swung outside the zone a career-worst 33.5% of the time.

His hitting coach, Jeremy Barnes, noted this week that “it’s just about, for him, understanding what the pitcher’s trying to do.”

“I’m dictating the at-bat,” Alonso agreed. “If the pitcher executes, that’s great. Tip my hat. But for me, I’m in complete control of when I swing the bat and not.”

After last season, despite making the National League All-Star team and finishing eighth in MVP voting, Alonso changed his routine in hopes of improving. Most notably, he revamped his conditioning program to lose 10 pounds, while also doubling down on his video studies and cage drills designed to help him with his plate discipline.

“I could talk to you for hours about all of that stuff, but I think it would get pretty boring for most people,” Alonso said.

Boring or not, the early returns are plain to see for a player who leads the Majors in home runs, and ranks in the top four in RBIs, runs scored and slugging percentage. In Spring Training, Alonso discussed the possibility of joining Aaron Judge in the 60-homer club, which seems a farfetched dream for anyone -- but perhaps a little less so now. If Alonso maintains his gains in plate discipline, this could be the most sustainable hot streak of his career.
“We fell short last year in the postseason,” he said. “I just wanted to do what I could to get better. If I could get better or contribute a little bit more, or evolve as a player, I felt like that could help the team. I feel like I took a good deep dive. Spring Training was a good place to try out those things, and now we’re going.”