Kirk, Mets End First Half on a Bang
Kirk Nieuwenhuis became the first Met in franchise history to hit three home runs in a game at home during Sunday's win. (slgckgc: Flickr)
When Matt Harvey hit his first major league home run on Satuday, you would figure that his milestone would be the talk of the series once the weekend was over. On Sunday Kirk Nieuwenhuis made sure that would not be the case, making history by being the first Met to ever hit three home runs in one game at home.
"[It was] a little bit surreal," said Nieuwenhius. "But after the last month I think I'm a little used to surreal now."
Nieuwenhuis was referring to the fact that this season he has been designated for assignment, traded to the Angels, put on waivers, and reclaimed by the Mets. He came into Sunday hitting just .091, did not have home run during his first stint with the Mets this season, nor did he hit one during his brief 10 game tenure with the Angels after bring traded by the Mets. He had just one hit since rejoining New York, but got the start on Sunday and hit a home run to left field in his first at-bat, another to center field in his second at-bat, and one to right field in his third at-bat. His teammates couldn't help but marvel at the display.
"Unbelievable," said starting pitcher Jon Niese when asked about Nieuwenhuis' performance. "I guess there's no other words to describe it when you have three home runs in one game. It's special what he did, I'm very happy for him. It couldn't have happened to a better guy."
Mets manager Terry Collins echoed the sentiments of his pitcher.
"After the third one all you could hear on the bench was 'This is unbelievable,'" said Collins. "Everybody's rooting for this guy. They were excited for him."
Nieuwenhuis said he had maybe hit three home runs in game once in high school, but never in his career after that. In terms of describing his emotions, it was simple.
"Just happy," said the 27 year old outfielder. "I'm just happy to be back with these guys and go to battle with them and be out there on the field."
Daniel Murphy added a home run to make it four on the day and nine in the series, tying a franchise record for most homers in a three game series, including Harvey's on Saturday. Serveral Mets pitchers have had success with the bat this year, including Noah Syndergaard who also has a home run this season, so Harvey was glad to help out with the bat as well.
"I think the big news now is that [the pitchers] can rake," Harvey joked after Saturday's 4-2 win. "I wasn't doing my job very well so that must have helped the cause."
Sunday's win clinched a sweep after back to back 4-2 victories on Friday and Saturday. All 13 runs in the series came via the long ball. On Friday night the Mets got all four runs within the first six at-bats, as Lucas Duda hit a first inning three run homer and Michael Cuddyer followed up with a solo shot to go back-to-back. For Duda it was his first home run since June 18th, and for Cuddyer it was his first home run since June 5th. Duda recognizes that those are trends that can't continue into the 2nd half of the season.
"As of late I've obviously not done all that I'm capable of," said Duda on Saturday night after knocking in another home run, his second in two games. "I'm well aware of that."
And while Collins is happy that the home runs have come now, he understands more needs to happen offensively after the All-Star Break.
"We've gotta play better in the second half, we're not making any excuses we've got to pick up the offense," said Collins after the final game of the first half on Sunday. "If we do that, and Lucas starts swinging and [Cuddyer] starts swinging...I talked to David [Wright] today, he's really on the upswing, so hopefully he gets back soon. I think it's going to be a real exciting second half to watch us play."
The Mets have been through alot during the first half of this 2015 season. The team has experienced an 11 game winning streak, a 7 game losing streak, injuries at nearly every position, near league-leading pitching, and unthinkable scoring droughts. Their captain, Wright, has played only 8 games due to injury. Their closer coming into the year, Jenrry Mejia, was suspended 80 games for PED use and just made his season debut on Sunday. Their starting catcher, Travis d'Arnaud, and best left-handed reliever, Jerry Blevins, suffered broken arms in the same inning. d'Arnaud landed right back on the DL after 8 games, and Blevins is yet to return. But through all of this, the New York Mets stand at 47-42 after winning six of eight and are just one game out of a playoff spot heading into the All-Star Break. The explanation for this is maybe the same explanation for an .091 hitter being the first Met to ever hit three homers in a home game, as provided by Collins.
"That's why it's a great game," Collins said. "You don't have any answers for it. Nobody knows what is going to happen on a daily basis."
The Mets resume their season on Friday night when they head to St. Louis to take on the Cardinals. Will that be the start of a second half that leads the Mets to the postseason? Like Collins said, nobody knows.