Can Aaron Judge feel Pete Alonso breathing down his neck yet?
The Mets rookie is on pace to crush 53 home runs before the calendar flips to October. And he’s charging ahead to overtake Judge’s rookie record in the process.
Alonso demolished a pair of solo home runs and provided two-thirds of the Mets offense in their 3-1 win over the Diamondbacks in the series opener on Monday night at Citi Field. The 25-year-old’s two-homer day brought his season total to 47. Judge set the mark for most home runs by a rookie in 2017 with 52, and the Mets’ 6-3, 245-pound rookie has 19 more games to eclipse it.
“I just want to make the playoffs,” Alonso said. “That’s something we still have a chance to do. Making the playoffs would be the most rewarding experience ever. From where we’ve come so far this year, to be able to make it and have a chance to play for a ring, I think that’d surpass any personal records.”
Thanks to Alonso’s dramatic moonshots, Jacob deGrom had a little more breathing room than usual. The Mets ace is notorious for having to deal with an unforgiving lack of run support from his offense during his outings. The Amazin’s improved to 67-68 in deGrom’s career starts after his spectacular seven-inning outing on Monday.
“Any time they’re putting runs on the board it’s fun to watch,” Alonso said. “He’s had a great season and it’s been fun to be a part of.
The Mets (73-70) are now 3.5 games from the second Wild Card spot after the win. They are 2.5 games behind the Diamondbacks as the hunt for the postseason intensifies.
DeGrom struck out 11 batters and limited the Diamondbacks to three hits over 108 pitches. The only hitter to succeed at the plate against the reigning Cy Young winner was old friend Wilmer Flores. The former Met launched a leadoff homer and cut the Diamondbacks’ deficit to 2-1 in the fifth inning. He was just about the only opposing hitter to cause deGrom trouble in his 29th start of the year.
In his 168 career starts, deGrom has allowed one or no runs 77 times (45.8 percent). That’s the most such starts since at least 1908 within a pitcher’s first 168 career games. The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw is second with 74. DeGrom’s second-half success (1.85 ERA, 73 IP, 11 starts) has brought him into the center of the Cy Young discussion again.
“That’s always a goal,” deGrom said of winning the Cy Young. “You have goals as a team and you set personal goals as well. I go out there and try to put up zeros and give these guys a chance to win. Any time you mention personal awards it’s nice, but my main goal is to get to the playoffs and hopefully win a World Series.”
Fortunately for deGrom and his chance to notch a ninth win, the Mets had a well-rested weapon in their bullpen to secure the lead. Seth Lugo had not pitched since last Wednesday before he jogged to the mound and was asked to record the final six outs of the game. Six batters came up, and six batters sat down as Lugo plowed through the bottom-third and top-third of the Diamondbacks’ lineup to record his fifth save of the year.