Before the Mets played a seven-inning doubleheader on Saturday, manager Luis Rojas said he would like to see the offense improve. After all, they entered the day 29th in the Major Leagues in runs scored.
In the second game, the Mets scored enough runs for a 4-2 win over the Pirates to split the twin bill at Citi Field. In Game 1, right-hander Marcus Stroman found out the hard way that left-hander Tyler Anderson could rake and it proved costly as the Bucs won, 6-2.
GAME 1 RECAP:
The game was tied at 2 in the top of the fifth inning when Anderson came to the plate to face Stroman with two outs. It seemed Anderson was going to be an easy out. After all, he struck out in his first at-bat and was an .063 hitter entering the game. The count was 1-1, when Anderson hit the ball over the right-center-field fence to give the Pirates a one-run lead.
Stroman would leave the game after that inning, pitching five innings and allowing three runs on five hits. At first it looked like he was going to have a game to remember. Stroman was dealing during the first three innings, retiring the first nine Pirates in order.
But things began to unravel in the fourth inning when Stroman allowed a two-run double to John Nogowski to make it a 2-1 game in favor of Pittsburgh.
Mets third baseman Jonathan Villar tied the score at 2 with a mammoth home run over the left-field wall — his third homer in two games of the series.
Mets reliever Trevor May entered the game in the sixth inning and Pittsburgh increased its lead with a two-run homer by Bryan Reynolds, who was robbed of a homer in the first by Brandon Nimmo’s over-the-wall catch.
GAME 2 RECAP:
In the nightcap, Jeff McNeil gave an indication of what he could do during the second half of the season. He went 2-for-3 to raise his average to .255, and his biggest hit came in the first inning against Pirates right-hander Max Kranick. With two outs, McNeil doubled to right field, scoring Francisco Lindor and Dominic Smith for a 2-0 lead.
“I’m getting comfortable at the plate. I’m starting to see the ball better. I have my barrel awareness,” McNeil said. “It’s back, so I’ve been able to … shoot some balls all over the field. It comes from playing. I missed a good amount of time there. So just getting the amount of ABs, … I’m feeling good again. It’s there. I’m feeling a lot better.”
Rojas can see the difference when a healthy McNeil is at the plate. McNeil missed more than a month this season because of a left hamstring strain.
“This guy is a natural hitter,” Rojas said. “Right now, he is not thinking about anything. He is going in there, finding his pitches and swinging. He is not chasing as much.
“He is going to be a free swinger. He is going to expand a little bit. I thought since coming off the [injured list], he was going out there way too far. … I think he is able to hit the [breaking ball now] and he is getting pitches in the zone. That’s why he is driving the ball better. He has been more disciplined.”
McNeil agrees that scoring runs have been few and far between for the team during the first half of the season. But he believes the offense will be different after the All-Star break.
“We’ve played a lot less innings than everyone else,” McNeil said. “The hits are going to come. We know we have been swinging the bats really well this past week. We are going to improve on that and build. I look forward to a fun second half.”
After the Pirates cut the lead on a Bryan Reynolds single off right-hander Tylor Megill, Mets first baseman Pete Alonso answered by hitting a mammoth solo home run over the left-field wall. His 17th of the season traveled a Statcast-projected 428 feet.
Billy McKinney increased the lead off right-hander Clay Holmes with a single in the bottom of the sixth inning, scoring James McCann.
Megill didn’t pitch long enough (3 2/3 innings and one run allowed) to win his first Major League game, but he tied Dick Selma, Dwight Gooden and Matt Harvey for the most strikeouts (26) in the first four starts of a Mets career.
“That’s a real cool accomplishment to see and to have,” Megill said. ‘I’ll try to get more each outing.”
Megill has a respectable 3.50 ERA, but he has yet to go past the fifth inning. Pitching coach Jeremy Hefner told Megill that he was going to be in the big leagues for a long time and to not get down. They would work the kinks out and get ready for the next start.
“It’s just pitch efficiency,” Megill said. “I keep repeating myself, but I’m having a hard time doing that. I get ahead and then I’m wasting pitches. I’m nowhere near the zone, which is hurting me. I need to be more in the zone with my two-strike pitches.”