How'd Pete's record HR stay fair? He spoke to it

Alonso sets Mets rookie mark for most homers before All-Star break

May 22nd, 2019

NEW YORK -- As the ball traveled in an arc over the left-field foul pole, hopped down the first-base line, body turned toward left, watching its flight. Afterward, Alonso would say that he knew for sure the ball was staying fair. That did not stop Alonso, in the moment, from whispering words of encouragement.

“I talked to it,” Alonso said. “I was like, ‘Stay fair, please.’ And it listened.”

In listening, the baseball gave the Mets new life, tying Tuesday’s game against the Nationals in the eighth inning and allowing New York to win it, 6-5, on Amed Rosario’s infield single in the ninth. It also gave Alonso sole possession of the Mets’ rookie record for home runs before the All-Star break, with 16.

Forty-three games remain until the All-Star break.

“That’s really humbling. That’s really cool,” Alonso said. “It justifies all the hard work I’ve put in to put myself in the position. I’m really grateful and humble. I’m really thankful that the Mets gave me a shot at the beginning of the year from the get-go. Without that opportunity, I wouldn’t be in this position where I’m at now.”

Not since Ron Swoboda in 1965 had a Mets rookie clubbed even 15 home runs before the All-Star break. Alonso’s record-breaker came with the Mets trailing by a run. Facing right-hander Tanner Rainey, he ran the count to 1-2 before seeing the pitch he wanted: a 99-mph fastball right down the middle.

The result was Alonso’s seventh home run in his last 61 plate appearances, allowing him to keep up the torrid pace he established earlier this season. The Mets’ overall record for home runs before the All-Star break belongs to Dave Kingman, who clubbed 30 of them in 1976. Sixteen others, including David Wright, Mike Piazza and Darryl Strawberry, have hit at least 20 first-half homers.

As far as Major League rookies go, Mark McGwire holds the record with 33 first-half homers in 1987. Fifty others have hit at least 16 before the break, including Aaron Judge with 30 in 2017.

With each home run he hits, Alonso’s company on those leaderboards becomes increasingly elite.

“I hope I’m one of the toughest outs in the lineup,” Alonso said. “I want to feel dangerous in the box every single time I go up there. And I want to not just feel dangerous, I want to be dangerous as well.”