Jeff McNeil woke up on Wednesday morning on the final day of the regular season with the National League lead in batting average ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman.
Behind a red-hot series against the Atlanta Braves in which he went 7-for-13 with a home run and two RBI to take over the league lead, McNeil maintained his standing when he went 3-for-8 during Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Washington Nationals.
It extended his hitting streak to 10 games, raising his season mark to .326 — four points ahead of Freeman for the NL lead.
The Mets have only had one other batting champion in franchise history when Jose Reyes batted .337 in 2011.
“There’s a lot of pride. We’re proud of Jeff and what he’s done,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said on Tuesday. “Especially when you’re competing against the best hitters in the world.”
For someone as superstitious as Showalter, who will always let you know that the baseball gods will laugh at you when you tell them your plans, such remarks about McNeil’s pursuit of a batting title were uncommon.
“Yeah, I talk to Jeff about it now and then. I even talked to him about it a little today,” he said. “He doesn’t ever come up and say this and that. He’s chasing the team stuff. If that’s a byproduct of it, so be it… It hasn’t quite gotten the notice and notoriety that it normally would have because of where we are as a team. I guess that’s a good thing.”
Another byproduct of McNeil’s big season is that he ranks second on the Mets’ all-time batting average list (.307) only behind John Olerud’s .315.
With a comfortable lead, McNeil could very well sit for Wednesday’s regular-season finale. But Showalter won’t let him make that decision.
“I would never put him in that position. I don’t think that’s fair to him,” Showalter said. “But I’ll probably look at the Dodgers [to see how Freeman is doing]… Let’s see what tomorrow brings. I think it’s something that the manager should be aware of.”
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