It feels like Jeff McNeil has entered into a time machine, transporting himself back to 2019.
Gone is the hitter who was too often muscling up and not using the entire field nearly enough. That version appears so 2021.
McNeil, through the season’s first 21 games, looks so much more like the player who came up hitting the ball wherever it was pitched, not worried about driving the ball as much as placing it in the right spots.
“[It started] maybe a little bit in the offseason, trying to get back to getting base hits, trying to get singles,” McNeil said after collecting his first four-hit game of the season in the Mets’ 10-6 victory over the Phillies on Sunday night at Citi Field. “That’s been my job my whole career. just get on base. Hit a lot of singles and those turn into some doubles and home runs.”
He now has nine multi-hit games this season, which is tied for the third most in baseball, and is batting a robust .361. He sprayed the ball all around on Sunday, singling to center field in the third, doubling to right in the fifth, singling to left-center in the seventh and doubling to left-center in the eighth. Manager Buck Showalter moved him up in the lineup — to third — and McNeil produced two runs scored and an RBI.
Ironically, McNeil has enjoyed some of the best games of his career against the Phillies. Four of his nine four-hit games have come against the Mets’ rival, including the last four.
“That’s pretty cool,” he said. “I’ll take that.”
In the Mets’ impressive start to the season, in which they have won their first seven series, a franchise record, there have been several positives. The starting rotation has been terrific. Francisco Lindor has started well. The lineup has produced runs with two outs and runners in scoring position. McNeil finding his swing is right up there among the most important developments.
“I’m letting my instincts kind of take over, seeing the ball deep and just trying to get hits up there,” McNeil said. “It feels great. It feels like I did in 2019.”
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