Starling Marte upping game in return to No. 2 spot in Mets’ lineup

Starling Marte Mets
New York Mets’ Starling Marte reacts as he reaches home plate after hitting a two-run home run during the third inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Wednesday, April 17, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

QUEENS, N.Y. — A healthy Starling Marte has returned to batting second in the New York Mets’ lineup, coinciding with a reversal in the teams’ fortunes. 

Starting the season in the middle-third of the starting nine, a sputtering Mets offense was shuffled by first-year manager Carlos Mendoza, who returned the 36-year-old right fielder to a more familiar spot. During his first year in Queens two years ago, he put together an All-Star campaign batting mostly second, posting a .292 batting average and an .814 OPS with 16 home runs and 63 RBI for a 101-win team.

Mendoza’s move has worked. Marte is slashing .270/.308/.460 (.767 OPS) with two home runs, four RBI, and six runs scored in eight games at the No. 2 spot, including a go-ahead two-run round-tripper in the third inning of Wednesday’s 9-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates to complete the team’s first sweep of the season. It was the 150th home run of his career.

“I’m happy there, [however] for me, it doesn’t matter where I’m hitting in the lineup,” Marte said. “As long as the team continues to win, that’s all that matters to me. I can go 0-for-5 with five strikeouts, it doesn’t matter as long as the team wins.”

Mets stay red-hot, thump Pirates 9-1 to complete sweep

After starting the season 0-5 while averaging fewer than three runs per game, Marte is seeing his wish come true while he’s batting No. 2. The Mets have won 10 of their last 13 while scoring at a clip of 5.9 runs per game thanks in part to him being at the top of the lineup.

“I like the at-bats,” Mendoza said of Marte. “He’s a guy that can change the game in a lot of different ways. Not only his ability to hit for average, he can impact the baseball, but he can lay one down when we need to. He gets on base, he creates some traffic for the big boy behind him, so there’s a lot to like.”

This is the version of Marte the Mets were hoping to see when he returned to full health. His 2023 campaign was derailed by lingering issues from double-groin surgery two winters ago. On top of that, he encountered a neck injury last spring and migraine problems later that summer, limiting him to just 86 games with an OPS of .625.

Starilng Marte Mets
New York Mets’ Starling Marte rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run during the third inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Wednesday, April 17, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

“I feel good. Last year is a year that I want to forget,” Marte said. “Right now, I feel really good. I think last year [those injuries] were limiting me but up until this point, I really feel good… I’m not the type of person that’s going to get satisfied with what I’m doing. I always want more, I always want to play better, and I always want to give more effort.

“That’s what I focus on day in and day out, just giving more effort and trying to be the best that I can possibly be.” 

To help preserve that high level of health, Mendoza and the Mets have been utilizing Marte as a designated hitter to cut down on the wear and tear that comes from playing in right field every day. Despite this being carried out to the chagrin of Marte, the results speak for themselves. As a DH, he’s batting .333 with a 1.007 OPS across 14 at-bats.

“It’s still something I’m getting used to,” Marte said. “Personally, I prefer to be out in the field, to be running back and forth, to be a part of the action, to be able to talk to the fans and really interact with them. But it’s something I’m really adjusting to and I’m working on to hopefully lengthen my career.”

For more on Starling Marte and the Mets, visit AMNY.com