Jeff McNeil is one Met who doesn’t need the All-Star break. At last, he seems to be hitting his stride.
McNeil continued his strong start to July with three hits in five at-bats in Saturday’s doubleheader split against the Pirates at Citi Field. He singled as a pinch-hitter in the opener, a 6-2 loss, and had the big hit in the Mets’ 4-2 nightcap win, a two-run, first-inning double that was his first extra-base hit since coming off the injured list on June 21.
“I think it’s just getting comfortable at the plate. I’m starting to see the ball better and my barrel awareness is back, so I’m able to kind of shoot some balls all over the field,” McNeil said after Game 2. “That just comes from playing. I missed a good amount of time there. I’m feeling a lot better.”
McNeil is now batting .357 (10-for-28) this month and has four multi-hit games. He had the game-winning, two-run single against the Brewers on Wednesday. He has struck out just five times and is making hard contact far more often, using the entire field instead of muscling up and trying to lift the ball. His overall average is now .255, the highest it has been all season.
In the first inning of the nightcap, the Mets second baseman laced a double to the right-center field gap. He singled to center in his second trip and lined out to left in his third at-bat.
“He’s getting there,” manager Luis Rojas said. “He’s a natural hitter and right now he’s not thinking about anything. He’s just going in there, finding his pitch and swinging.”
After missing five weeks with a left hamstring strain, it took time for McNeil to regain his timing. He managed just seven hits in his first 38 at-bats after returning. But he has started to stack strong games, stringing together quality at-bats. It’s not a coincidence the Mets’ offense has begun to show signs of life — scoring 47 runs in the past nine games and winning six of them — now that McNeil has been more productive. He isn’t satisfied, though.
“I just need to start driving the ball a little bit more, but that’ll come with squaring the ball up, which I feel like I’ve been doing lately,” McNeil said.
The Mets can only hope he doesn’t cool off during the All-Star break.