McNeil homers, gets 3 hits as Syndergaard, Mets top Reds 6-4
By BEN WALKER, AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — These terrific at-bats by rookie Jeff McNeil, maybe it’s the bat.
A most unusual bat.
Swinging a strange-looking stick with no knob, McNeil homered in getting three more hits to lead the New York Mets over the Cincinnati Reds 6-4 Monday night in a matchup of struggling teams.
“Definitely getting a lot more confident up there,” McNeil said.
McNeil’s 34-inch, 31 1/2-inch Dove Tail bat features a style virtually unseen in the majors. His bat simply flares out at the end — he started using it a couple of years ago in the minors, saying he likes the way it feels so balanced.
“To me, it’s just a normal bat,” he said.
Go tell that to other big leaguers. Put it this way: None of his new teammates have asked to try it.
“No, not up here,” he said, laughing.
The 26-year-old second baseman is 12 for 33 (.364) with two homers in 12 games since making his major league debut this season. He was batting a combined .342 with 19 homers at Triple-A and Double-A when he was called up.
“He’s going to have a chance to really show us what he can do,” manager Mickey Callaway said.
McNeil has eight hits in his last 12 at-bats. He singled during a three-run first inning against Homer Bailey (1-9), singled in a two-run fourth and hit a solo homer into the second deck in right field in sixth.
Wilmer Flores, playing on his 27th birthday, and Austin Jackson each had three hits and Kevin Plawecki homered in backing Noah Syndergaard.
Reds star Joey Votto got two hits and drew a bases-loaded walk. But the Reds first baseman admittedly was moving rather slowly because of general soreness, and is unlikely to start Tuesday night.
“I thought I would be fine. I took batting practice. Usually that tells me a lot about my legs,” he said. “But then I started playing during the game and I couldn’t turn it over, I couldn’t really get it going.”
Both clubs had lost five of six going into the series opener. Before it began, Reds pitcher Matt Harvey was honored with a video tribute, with the former Mets ace drawing a mix of cheers and boos in his first game at Citi Field since being traded to Cincinnati in May.
“I remember a lot of cheers,” he said before the game. “I do remember some boos.”
McNeil’s homer made it 6-0, and Syndergaard (7-2) seemed to be in complete charge when he retired the first batter in the seventh. But he then hit the next two batters with pitches and the Reds went on to rally for four runs on a hot, humid evening.
“I think I just kind of ran out of gas,” Syndergaard said.
Jose Peraza’s RBI single finished Syndergaard, and reliever Bobby Wahl walked Votto with the bases loaded. Eugenio Suarez looped a two-out, two-run single off Robert Gsellman that made it 6-4, but Mason Williams struck out with two runners on base.
Jerry Blevins pitched ninth for his first save of the season, and the sixth of his 12-year career.
Syndergaard’s streak of 13 straight starts of allowing no more than three runs ended. Bailey faced only 21 batters and gave up a season-high 11 hits.
Jackson’s RBI single in the first was the Mets’ first hit with two outs and a scoring position since July 26, the Elias Sports Bureau said. The Mets had been 0-for-29 in those situations. The club record was an 0-for-31 skid in 2014. … Votto was 0 for 11 lifetime vs. Syndergaard before singling his first two times up. He’s reached base in 23 straight games against the Mets. … The Mets have won 20 of 25 vs. the Reds since 2014.
Reds: OF Preston Tucker was hit in the left foot by a pitch in the seventh, scored a run and left the game. He’ll get X-rays Tuesday.
Mets: Longtime Mets 1B Ed Kranepool, in need of a kidney transplant and searching for a donor, threw out the first ball. The 73-year-old made his big league debut at 17 with the expansion 1962 Mets. The popular New York native played 18 seasons in the majors, all with the Mets.
Reds: RHP Sal Romano (6-9, 5.12 ERA) makes his second career road start against the Mets. Born on Long Island and a prep star in Connecticut, the 24-year-old had hundreds of fans in the stands when he pitched at Citi Field last season.
Mets: LHP Jason Vargas (2-7, 8.23) is 0-4 in his last five starts.