The Mets are living and dying with Pete Alonso’s power.
They have won 10 of the 11 games that Alonso has homered in this season, and Friday night’s 8-6 win over the Phillies fell into the majority.
Alonso cranked his 12th homer of the year in the third inning off Bailey Falter, a two-run 400-foot shot to left field that gave the Mets a nice, breathable five-run advantage over their division rivals. The Mets kept adding on, and they needed every insurance run, but it was the team polar bear that brought the party back to Citi Field to kick off the Amazin’s six-game homestand.
“I feel like I’m just executing a little bit better this year,” Alonso said. “For me, it’s just having more time and more understanding of myself, who I am as a player. That’s helped execute, but the plan is still the same. It’s just, get something over the dish in my zone and don’t really deviate and give in to the pitcher. I feel like I’ve done a really good job of that this year and I just want to continue to do that as the year progresses.”
The Mets (30-17) had been flirting with their 30th win of the season since Tuesday, during their wild back-and-forth, three hour and 50 minute game against the Giants that went the other way. Had they won that night, the Mets would’ve become the second team in MLB to eclipse that mark, following only the Yankees who won their 30th game earlier on Tuesday. The Mets were the first team to reach 20 wins earlier this month.
Alonso’s home run in the third was also his 400th career hit, which means 29.5% of the first baseman’s hits since his 2019 rookie season have been dingers. Alonso also now leads MLB with 44 RBI. Mets manager Buck Showalter said he’s been impressed with Alonso’s consistency, saying there aren’t too many dips in the slugger’s season and he’s always one pitch away from his next home run.
“He doesn’t dwell on that last at-bat and that last game,” Showalter said. “You may get a completely different result the next time. And when he gets a hit, he’s trying to get another one, and he’s trying to get another one, and another one. I don’t want to say greedy, but he never stops pushing.”
Meanwhile, the Mets lived to deal with their growing bullpen problem another day.
Carlos Carrasco pitched better than his final line suggested, because Showalter yanked him with runners on first and second in the sixth inning and reliever Chasen Shreve provided none of it when he promptly surrendered a three-run home run to Phillies catcher Garrett Stubbs. The Mets began that sixth inning with a 7-0 lead, and ended the top of the frame with just a one-run edge.
“The unfortunate thing was they didn’t hit the ball hard pretty much the whole inning,” Showalter said.
Showalter said he took Carrasco out of the game then because the right-hander had jammed his thumb and the skipper believed that was affecting his command. Carrasco later said he got his thumb checked out by the medical team, and he’s fine. The pitcher also wasn’t sure how exactly he jammed it.
All five runs that were charged to Carrasco came in the sixth inning, but none of the four singles he allowed were hit harder than 84 mph off the bat. So four softly-hit base hits, including two that never left the infield, and a walk to Odubel Herrera resulted in five earned runs on six hits across 5.2 innings and 85 pitches. Carrasco, whose ERA jumped to 3.98 following his ninth start of the year, had retired 15 of his first 18 batters, including seven strikeouts, before his outing went sideways in the sixth.
“I’ve been studying a lot, those guys,” said Carrasco, who faced the Phillies on Friday for the first time this season. “Last year, faced them and they got me on two runs. This year we’re playing them a lot, the way they hit, the way they make contact. But today was great. We made the right pitches today.”
Shreve, on the other hand, has struggled in five of his last six relief appearances. The lefty specialist had been terrific for the Mets to begin the season, carrying a 0.74 ERA into his 11th relief appearance just a couple of weeks ago. But he has since allowed at least one earned run in each of his last half-dozen outings. The Mets have just one other left-handed bullpen arm in Joely Rodriguez, and both he and Shreve have been used plenty by Showalter through the team’s first 47 games.
Without Trevor May, who is on the injured list with a triceps stress reaction for at least the next couple of weeks, the Mets bullpen has been forced to pick up the slack with varying degrees of success. Going into the 2022 season, the Amazin’s relief corps was their weakest area on paper, and more than a quarter into the year, it remains that way.
“He’s pitched well for us this year,” Showalter said of Shreve. “He’s had a couple of tough gos here and there. Doesn’t make me throw out everything he’s done for us, just like all of them.”
For now, Mets relievers have recorded a 3.65 ERA overall, which ranks in the middle of the league at 15th. We’ve seen bullpen arms be impressive, while also costing some games. The league-average effort means GM Billy Eppler should be scouring the market yesterday for any acquisitions, but it’s also an area the Mets can potentially afford to wait to improve, in a bigger way, at the trade deadline.
It helped that Edwin Diaz notched his 11th save of the season on Friday by striking out the meat of the Phillies order in Rhys Hoskins, Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos. Diaz’s final pitch, a 101-mph fastball served up to Castellanos, was exactly the kind of high heat that makes him one of the filthiest closers in the game. Both his whiff and strikeout percentage are in the 100th percentile in MLB, while his otherworldly fastball velocity is in the 99th percentile, according to Statcast.
“With Edwin, that is a hard part of the lineup to go through,” Showalter said. “That was impressive tonight. I know that doesn’t go unnoticed by us. That’s hard.”