Following yesterday’s rout of the Pirates, ESPN’s Adam Rubin reported that hitting coach Kevin Long had a “get-together” with his players before the game to discuss their collective approach at the plate.
Long’s words must have hit home, as the Mets pounded out 11 runs on 19 hits, both season highs for the club.
For the first time in two months, the Mets offense was fun to watch. They battled through at-bats and they put solid, compact swings on the ball. Heck, they even acknowledged different offensive situations, and adjusted their approaches accordingly. But most significantly, it was refreshing to see the Mets abandon their “swing from the heels” approach and pile on runs without the longball.
Of the Mets 11 runs, only three came via the home run. Coming into the game, the Mets offense had scored over 60 percent of their runs by going yard, and they looked downright pathetic whenever they did not homer. Last night was a different story.
For a change, not every batter tried to park one, instead choosing to put the ball in play in a productive fashion.
Third Baseman Wilmer Flores’ changed approach was among the most obvious. Instead of swinging for the fences with men on base, he drove in runs with a groundout and a bloop single to right field, (before taking a middle-in pitch from Rob Scahill over the wall in the sixth inning.)
The team, notorious for its pull heavy, all or nothing approach, drove the ball to the opposite field. Prominent pull hitters Curtis Granderson, Kelly Johnson and Rene Rivera were especially able to capitalize against the shift.
Granderson, clearly trying to go the other way, beat the shift and knocked two base hits to left, much to the delight of Keith Hernandez. Johnson, who homered in the third inning, also added two base hits to the opposite field, including an RBI single.
Meanwhile, the right handed Rivera tallied three hits, two of which went to right field. He also drove in two runs in what wound up being his best game as a Met. Most impressively, he smacked a two strike, down-the-middle fastball from Pirates starter Jeff Locke into the right centerfield gap for a double. It was a pitch he could have pulled, but he shocked everybody (especially the Pirates’ outfielders) by lacing it the other way.
The Mets also looked aggressive and confident on the basepaths, a welcome sight for a team that has played conservative station to station baseball to date. While they did not swipe any bags, they ran aggressively on the bases. Many Mets not known for their speed took the extra base whenever possible. Kelly Johnson specifically deserves a special mention, going from first to third on a single in the fifth and scoring from first on a James Loney double to left field in the sixth inning.
Of course, yesterday was only one game. I’m not a believer in one game sample sizes, and I’m not going to claim that the Mets offense is “fixed” or ready to compete against the likes of Washington and Chicago. But that one game does represent a huge step forward, and hopefully a harbinger of future offensive success.