QUEENS — Starling Marte is rounding into form and it couldn’t come a moment too soon for the Mets.
The veteran right-fielder put together his best offensive game of the season during the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Cleveland Guardians, going 3-for-4 with a stolen base and an eighth-inning, game-winning, two-run home run off reliever Trevor Stephan in a 5-4 Mets triumph.
“I was just looking for a pitch that I could drive as a hit,” Marte said of the four-seam fastball from Morgan that he took the other way over the right-field wall through a translator. “And it went out.”
Marte has gradually begun to look like the All-Star threat that he was in his debut campaign in Queens last season in which he posted a .292 batting average, .814 OPS, 16 home runs, 63 RBI, and 18 stolen in 118 games last season.
But as last year was shortened and impacted by injuries, including a broken finger that held him out for the season’s final month, the 2023 campaign has been riddled with issues, too.
He had offseason double-groin surgery that affected his ability to run the bases before a neck injury suffered on April 9 against the Miami Marlins — one he labeled on Sunday as something that was “worrisome — that had played its part in a sluggish start.
“Having surgery doesn’t mean that you have to stop,” he began. “But you have to take it a little slower.”
In 20 games from April 11-May 6, he batted just .173 with just one extra-base hit, zero home runs, and six RBI to go with five stolen bases. Over his last 12 including Sunday’s win, he’s batting .325 with that home run, four RBI, and three stolen bases.
“This has been a real battle for the last couple of weeks where we’ve been working a lot in the cage,” Marte said. “But at the end of the day, we’re starting to get close to where we want to be and what we feel good about.”
Stressing proper rotation and plate discipline, Marte’s gradual turnaround is a welcome addition to a Mets offense that has found its groove as of late, averaging six runs per game in their last six prior to the second game of Sunday night’s doubleheader (4-2).
“I’m starting to feel good,” Marte said. I’m able to go out there and play and do the best that I possibly can because, at the end of the day, I care. I care to come out here and perform.”