This is the kind of lineup production the Mets expected from the start.
After the Mets hit 11 home runs over three days in Cincinnati to finish a road trip in which they averaged 6.7 runs, hitting coach Hugh Quattlebaum was finally getting results from a group that had disappointed offensively in the first half.
Whether it has been the thunder Michael Conforto and Pete Alonso have brought to start the second half, J.D. Davis’ return to help boost the lineup or Jeff McNeil’s steady climb, the results are showing.
“These guys have been working their asses off, every one of them,” Quattlebaum said before the Mets opened a three-game series against the Blue Jays on Friday.
Quattlebaum offered his assessment on several members of that lineup:
Conforto: The Mets outfielder had a disappointing first half, but has blasted three homers since the All-Star break. Over the final two games in Cincinnati, however, he went 0-for-9.
“Conforto kept coming in until he found something that clicked and he’s had some bad luck the last couple of games, but it seems like he’s pretty close to being the version of himself that people know,” Quattlebaum said. “That changes everything. He’s so good you can guarantee a quality at-bat, you can guarantee if they make a mistake it’s going to be hit hard. That changes everything.”
Brandon Nimmo: Wanting to feel comfortable against lefties — with the Mets scheduled to face two this weekend — Nimmo spent part of his day off Thursday at Citi Field taking batting practice against Raffy Fernandez, a left-handed BP pitcher.
“[Nimmo] had an opportunity during spring training to see our left-handed BP thrower a lot, they were doing it every day,” Quattlebaum said. “He hasn’t had the opportunity recently, so he came in and he and Raffy went after each other. Raffy throwing hard with some sliders and Nimmo just trying to find the feel that it seems he lost against lefties, so that was good. I’m encouraged. He left the place confident, which matters more than anything.”
Alonso: After winning his second straight Home Run Derby title, the Mets first baseman went 8-for-26 (.308) on the road trip with two homers.
“The derby doesn’t seem to have affected his swing and all it really did was make him more confident,” Quattlebaum said. “That’s hard on the rest of the league when he’s confident like that. We have got to get him bobbing his head like he was [at the derby].”
McNeil: He owns a respectable .786 OPS in July after a rough start to the season. The challenge for the Mets remains keeping McNeil in the right place mentally.
“He’s tough on himself and he wants to be perfect every at-bat,” Quattlebaum said. “I think the biggest thing everybody has talked about with him is kind of stretching the timeline out instead of one at-bat being life or death. Let’s break it into chunks of 45 at-bats. You know, in 45 at-bats you are going to get out 30 times. I’m a constant drumbeat on that because he’s a perfectionist.
“He wants to get a hit every time and that’s just not the way the game is played. We make a lot of poker analogies for him and there’s been a lot of chunking at-bats that can keep him in a place that can keep him as even-keel as you can get.”
Francisco Lindor: The shortstop strained his right oblique in the Mets’ first game of the second half and will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis. Lindor had just begun to break out, with a .989 OPS in July, before hitting the injured list.
“It’s a bummer,” Quattlebaum said. “He’s handling it probably better than everyone else is. Everyone knows the value he has brought to this team. He may get booed by the fans, but they don’t have any clue what he has done in terms of helping that team vibe here.”