SAN FRANCISCO -- Earlier this week, Mickey Callaway was speaking to Todd Frazier about his 2015 Home Run Derby experience when Frazier mentioned how much that event sapped him, physically. In the days following the Derby, Frazier went 0-for-10 before warming at the plate later in July.
With that conversation as his basis, Callaway decided on Saturday to give Pete Alonso his first game off since May 26 -- sort of. In the third inning, Alonso headed down to the Oracle Park batting cage for work with hitting coaches Tom Slater and Rafael Fernandez. By the time manager Mickey Callaway called on him with two men on base and two outs in the sixth inning, Alonso felt ready to shake off his post-Derby slump.
And so he did. The rookie bashed a three-run homer off reliever Derek Holland, giving the Mets a seven-run lead in what became an 11-4 blowout of the Giants. In so doing, Alonso logged his 73rd, 74th and 75th RBIs, breaking Darryl Strawberry’s 36-year-old franchise rookie record.
“It was a great day off,” Alonso said, laughing. “I’ll call it a mental health day. It was a great mental health day.”
“That’s what you want,” Callaway said. “One at-bat, three RBIs, a homer and go rest some more.”
In Callaway’s estimation, a day out of the starting lineup for Alonso was overdue. The rookie had started 91 of the Mets’ first 97 games at first base, appearing as a substitute in five of the other six. Coming out of the All-Star break and Derby, Alonso found himself in a 3-for-30 funk (albeit with two home runs).
“He’s a horse,” Callaway said. “But sometimes, you have to take it out of their hands. Competitors don’t always want to admit things and we understand that, and we want them to be like that. So we’ll take it out of their hands every now and then, and let him get some swings in the cage today, relax a little bit.”
Callaway cited pitch recognition as Alonso’s main issue, though the rookie entered Saturday swinging at roughly the same percentage of balls out of the zone -- 32.5 percent since the All-Star break, according to Statcast data -- as he did in the first half of the season. Alonso believes he simply wasn’t punishing mistakes, which seems a better assessment. On balls in the zone, he was slugging .444, compared to .884 before the break.
While some may point to the Derby, in which Alonso hit 57 home runs over three rounds, as reason for the slump, Alonso does not agree. As if to prove it, he turned his off day into an awfully productive one, moving within eight home runs of the Mets’ franchise record.
“I don’t feel worn down,” Alonso said. “I’ve got to trust that my coaches and the staff have my best interests. I know they have my best interests at heart. I hate off days because I want to be in there, because I’m just really competitive.”