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Versatile Jeff McNeil proving invaluable to Mets lineup

Jeff McNeil Mets
New York Mets’ Jeff McNeil hits a two-RBI double during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Take a look at the New York Mets’ franchise leader boards and you’ll see a pretty familiar cast of characters under many of the categories, and career batting average is no different. 

The top five features the usual cast of memorable fan favorites, whether it’s Keith Hernandez or David Wright, or Mike Piazza. 

But for Mets players that have accrued at least 1,500 plate appearances in their career with the team, there is one man who is above them all — and only one man trailing behind the criminally underrated John Olerud’s .315 showing with the club from 1997-1999.

Jeff McNeil.

The Mets’ natural-hitting extraordinaire nicknamed “squirrel” dodged through rats and Nationals in Washingon D.C. during Tuesday night’s 4-2 victory to collect two more hits, including a game-tying double in the sixth inning.

“I’m not trying to do too much,” McNeil said of his big night. “The main goal there is to put a barrel on the ball and get one run in for sure. After that, it’s a bonus.”

The 30-year-old lefty raised his 2022 season batting average to .333 entering Wednesday night’s action, good for sixth-best in the National League.

It’s a solid rebound from a miserable 2021 campaign where he looked out of sorts, slashing an uncharacteristic .251/.319/.360 (.679 OPS).

Behind 12 multi-hit games through 29 appearances, McNeil currently ranks second on the Mets’ all-time batting average list at .301, the only other Met besides Olerud with 1,500-plus plate appearances to have a mark over .300. 

While he’s often been asked to be versatile in the field, playing second base and the left field this season, he’s also been New York’s most moveable bat.

McNeil has batted in every position except second, fourth, and ninth this season, getting a bulk of his starts (13 games) in the eight spot.

Nothing like distributing the wealth within a Mets lineup that is ranked sixth in all of baseball.

“He has a great feel for the barrel of the bat,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “He can hit them where it’s pitched. He can maneuver the bat. It’s like a point guard coming down and surveying the defense, and deciding where he’s going to deliver the ball.”

The oldest trick in the book: Hit ’em where they ain’t.

And McNeil is playing to that mantra perfectly right now. 

 

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