WASHINGTON — Whether fair or not, much of the ink that has spilled over the Mets’ Trade Deadline strategy has focused less on what the team accomplished and more on what it didn’t. do. The Mets did not acquire a left-handed receiver or reliever. They didn’t emulate the splashier moves of the Braves, Phillies, Padres and other National League rivals.
Still, general manager Billy Eppler insisted the front office “has made our club better” by improving on the margins with Daniel Vogelbach, Tyler Naquin, Darin Ruf and Mychal Givens. To prove it, Vogelbach scored a grand slam in the team’s 9-5 win over Nationals on Wednesday, joining a memory-this-guy list of players whose first long pitch for the Mets was a slam.
“It’s always good to hit home runs,” Vogelbach said.
Mets whose first home run was a grand slam
• Daniel Vogelbach at the Nationals, August 3, 2022
• Adrián González at Nationals, 8 April 2018
• Justin Ruggiano to the Giants, August. 18, 2016
• Taylor Teagarden v Brewers, June 10, 2014
• Collin Cowgill vs. Padres, April 1, 2013
• Angel Pagan against. Cardinals, August 5, 2009
• Omir Santos v Marlins, April 27, 2009
• José Reyes to the Angels, June 15, 2003
• Dave Marshall to the Giants, April 28, 1970
• Jack Hamilton vs. Cardinals, May 20, 1967
• Carl Willey vs. Astros, July 15, 1963
In Vogelbach and Ruf, the Mets feel they have built a strong designated hitting field for a club that has received only paltry DH contributions in the first four months of the season. Prior to the Vogelbach acquisition, the Mets ranked in the bottom third of Majors in DH production, as measured by OPS. Vogelbach has since propelled the Mets into the middle third with a start that saw him reach base 16 times in 34 plate appearances.
He entered Wednesday’s game at Nationals Park with a .905 OPS against a right-handed pitcher. Ruf had an .886 OPS against southpaws. The Mets’ hope is that combined, these two players can approach the production of an everyday player with OPS close to this latitude – a Pete Alonso or Juan Soto type, so to speak.
It may be a pipe dream to believe that Vogelbach and Ruf can give the Mets superstar production the DH position, but so far so good. Vogelbach’s grand slam was the third of his career, on a 97 mph Jordan Weems fastball that he passed over the right field fence.
“If you look at their background and why they were acquired, it’s pretty obvious what we expect,” manager Buck Showalter said of Vogelbach and Ruf. “We had some good things, but not as many as we would like to have. We looked for a way to improve on that, and we think these two guys have a very good record on both sides of the plate. It’s a real challenge for the other team.
Going into the season, the Mets looked as well equipped as any team to take advantage of universal DH, with Robinson Canó, Dominic Smith and JD Davis all boasting reasonable hitting histories. Other National League teams lacked this advantage. But Canó ended up performing so poorly that the Mets slated him for assignment in early May, Smith received a demotion from the Minor League shortly thereafter, and Davis proved unable to match his past production as a right half of a platoon.
“It’s about taking advantage of the opportunities that come your way,” said Ruf, who has spent much of his career in platoon situations in Philadelphia and San Francisco. “It’s really important – especially if you get two or three at-bats early in the game, or one or two late in the game – to be ready to go.”
In his first two weeks at Flushing, Vogelbach proved he was ready, although he mainly contributed singles and walks. Vogelbach’s production was so light that Max Scherzer began harassing him within the walls of the clubhouse, calling the 6-foot, 270-pound slugger a slap hitter.
Then Wednesday, as Showalter put it, “Vogey had a big hit for us” — changing the narrative not only of Scherzer’s joke, but of a DH situation that the Mets say is finally settled for the stretch run.