QUEENS — If there were concerns that the role of bringing a jolt to a downtrodden Mets team was too big a stage for the likes of Mark Vientos, Francisco Alvarez, or Brett Baty, they should be gone by now after just a few hours of the organization’s top prospects being reunited.
Wednesday night at Citi Field against the MLB-best Tampa Bay Rays provided a first glimpse at what a part of the franchise’s future core was doing down in the minors and what they can do in Queens as Vientos and Alvarez answered a call that not many Mets had been able to do amidst a 6-16 stretch in their previous 22 games.
Making his season debut shortly after being promoted from Triple-A, Vientos did exactly what he was called up to do and provided a spark for a lifeless Mets offense in the seventh inning when he hit his first home run of the season to tie the game at two.
Consider that vindication after what felt like a long wait to get the call back up to the majors after batting .333 with 13 home runs and 37 RBI in 38 games.
“It feels good for sure that all the hard work I’ve been putting in is showing and it just tells me that I need to continue what I’ve been doing and keep working and keep learning,” the 23-year-old Vientos said. “Just whatever I can do to help this team win is why I’m here.”
After falling back down 5-2 and down to their final out of the night in the bottom of the ninth, the 21-year-old Alvarez sent a laser into the left-field seats to force extra innings and ultimately set up Pete Alonso’s walk-off three-run blast to reintroduce the Mets to the win column in an 8-7 triumph.
While Alonso played the final headlining hero, it was the young guns whom he tipped his hat toward, stressing the lift that their presence brought to the team after losing their previous two games by a combined score of 18-8.
“It’s always exciting when you see young guys come up wanting to succeed and make an impact,” Alonso said. “Obviously they made a huge impact tonight and seeing guys come up and who are successful, that’s huge for us. At the end of the day, we want everyone that’s here in this locker room to contribute and help win games. That’s what it’s all about.”
In no way is what Vientos, Alvarez, and fellow top prospect and third baseman Brett Baty are doing easy. Entering a veteran-laden clubhouse and taking playing time away from more established players adds to the pressure of performing for an underachieving big-market club.
But the self-assured aura that comes from the trio making their big-league journeys provides immeasurable support.
“We give each other confidence,” Vientos said. “We see each other doing it. We grew up through the system with each other. We know each other like we’re basically brothers and that gives us the confidence that when we go out there, we can do our thing.
“Just like we were doing in Triple-A and we were hitting balls over the fence and scoring runs. We could do that over here.”
Baty, who was given the night off on Wednesday, has taken the starting third-base job from Eduardo Escobar, posting a .718 OPS with three home runs and eight RBI in 25 games.
Alvarez, recently the organization’s and MLB’s No. 1 rated prospect, is beginning to find his footing in the pros as the Mets’ everyday starting catcher out of necessity. Over his last 10 games, he has a .948 OPS with three home runs, five RBI, and now his long-time lineup-mates flanking him.
“I’m really proud that they’re here with me to be able to experience this because I’ve seen how they played in the minors,” Alvarez said. “It’s a different type of support when you have these guys around because since I’ve been with them, it’s been special.”