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Boston Herald
Boston Herald
1 Jul 2023
Tribune News Service

NextImg:Mets Notebook: Pete Alonso shouldering the blame for recent struggles

Friday night with the Mets desperately trying to protect a two-run lead against the San Francisco Giants, the player that carried the team for much of the early part of the season made a costly mistake.

With one out, David Robertson, the Mets’ best high-leverage reliever, got Joc Pederson to roll over on a cutter. A ground ball went right to Pete Alonso at the edge of the dirt, but he bobbled the ball and rattled himself. With Robertson running over to cover first, he overthrew it to miff the flip. Pederson was safe.

Robertson then walked J.D. Davis and rookie catcher Patrick Bailey teed off on Robertson for a three-run homer. The Mets blew their 13th lead of the last calendar month.

Alonso shouldered much of the blame.

“It took a hop kind of snaked back towards me a little bit and I made a misplay,” Alonso said after the 5-4 loss at Citi Field. “And then I rushed the throw to D-Rob when I didn’t need to. My internal clock was going a little faster than what was actually happening. And that led to the throw.”

So goes the story of the Mets over the month of June — a month that likely cost them a shot at the playoffs. Each episode is seemingly the same.

The Mets have fallen into a familiar pattern of blowing late-game leads by making costly errors like the one Alonso made. The reasoning, according to manager Buck Showalter, general manager Billy Eppler and even owner Steve Cohen, is that the team is trying to do too much. They’re pressing. They’re rushing through plays instead of processing them first.

It’s become more than just a physical issue now; it’s become a mental as well. The manager is having to manage more than just what’s happening on the field.

“I talked with him last night after the game. So you know, just checking on him,” Showalter said Saturday before the Mets played the second game of a three-game set against the Giants. “I know it means so much to these guys. Just to see them go through this is painful because they wanted it to end yesterday.”

No one is happier about the end of June than the Mets, who went 7-19 last month.

When the Mets started skidding out of control in June, Alonso started slumping right along with his team. To make matters worse, he went on the injured list after being hit by a fastball in Atlanta and he hasn’t been the same since he came off of it. Alonso has slashed just .149/.216/.319 with a .535 OPS and 10 strikeouts. He did have two doubles and two home runs, but the production dropped off significantly from March/April and May when he hit 20 home runs.

The wrist, he said, is not a factor, though Showalter said he wouldn’t let anyone know if it was anyway. The metrics are fine. The exit velocity is largely the same and the barrel percentage is up from last season.

“I’m having, technically, probably the worst month I’ve ever had in the big leagues,” Alonso said. “Over the past, I would say five, six days, I’ve been having relatively decent at-bats. And then when I hit something hard, it just always seems to find a glove. For me, this month has been really tough with a lack of performance and then dealing with an injury and then coming back from it. So it’s just been a tough month.”

Alonso is a key clubhouse leader, so he’s shouldering the blame for much of the Mets’ 15-game slide down the standings. Baseball is sometimes described as an individual sport disguised as a team sport, and it’s true that sometimes teams go the way of their leaders. But this isn’t all on Alonso and the Mets are hoping a crucial leader understands that and takes some of the blame off of himself.

“That’s frustrating for a guy who’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing and not getting a return for it,” Showalter said. “And then compound it with the error last night, you know, you just keep hoping that that was rock bottom for him. And that baseball won’t give him more than he can handle. It’s cruel.”

Left-hander Jose Quintana should be cleared to return to the Major League team soon after throwing 64 pitches in a rehab start with Triple-A Syracuse on Friday night. Quintana (bone graft surgery) allowed two earned runs on four hits, walked three and struck out two over 2 2/3 innings in his first rehab game at the Triple-A level. The Mets have not yet decided if he will need one more rehab start.