NEW YORK -- Game by game, they pile up. Line drives to left field, moon shots to center, slicing fly balls to right. Pete Alonso hits them everywhere, at a clip unmatched in baseball today.
He could ultimately land on a number unmatched by any rookie in Major League history. With a flurry of September home runs, including two in the Mets’ 3-1 win over the D-backs on Monday, Alonso not only retook sole possession of the MLB lead, but also put himself on pace to break Aaron Judge’s rookie record of 52. If Alonso, who now has 47 home runs, maintains that level of production, he’ll hit six more the rest of the way.
He can do the math as well as you.
“I’m not there yet,” Alonso said. “If I’m fortunate enough to have that, then I’ll let you know [how it feels]. As of right now, I’m just trying to focus on winning, and trying to help this team get to the playoffs.”
No Mets players have furthered that quest more than Alonso, who accounted for two-thirds of his team’s offense in Monday’s win, and Jacob deGrom, who struck out 11 D-backs over seven innings of one-run ball. Both are also chasing history: a rookie home run record for Alonso, and a second straight National League Cy Young Award for deGrom.
The difference is that deGrom has been here, done that; pitching effectively into the season’s final month is already a regular line on his resume. Alonso has not only never been here before; he’s never played a full, six-month big league season in his life. So, it’s comforting for the Mets to see him catching fire in September.
His 46th home run was a 389-foot shot to left-center field that gave the Mets a first-inning lead against D-backs starter Merrill Kelly. His 47th also came off Kelly, on a drive down the left-field line.
In addition to five home runs in eight September games, Alonso has reached base safely in 34 consecutive games dating back to Aug. 2 -- the longest active streak in the Majors, and the longest single-season streak in Mets history. He’s batting .314 over that stretch.
“When they throw him strikes, he’s going to hit the ball hard,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “There’s got to be some anxiety when the pitcher’s having to face Pete.”
For Alonso, identifying strikes has been the key. Entering Monday, only 41.1 percent of the pitches he had seen this year were inside the strike zone, the lowest rate in MLB. When Alonso waits for strikes, he tends to hit home runs. He already owns the NL record for rookies and the Mets record for anyone. With 109 RBIs, he’s also just shy of the pace he would need to match the franchise record of 124 that Mike Piazza and David Wright share.
Consider them accolades worth pursuing, even if they’re not Alonso’s primary goals.
“I just want to make the playoffs,” said Alonso, whose big night helped to keep the Mets four games out of an NL Wild Card spot. “That’s something that we still have a chance to do. I still think making the playoffs would be the most rewarding experience ever. From where we’ve come so far this year, to be able to make it and have a chance to play for a ring, I think that would surpass any personal records.”