Eduardo Escobar watched a Steven Matz changeup sail into the center of the zone on Tuesday at Citi Field. His bat remained frozen just above his shoulder. Escobar was behind 0-1 in the count, but he did not waste time attacking the next pitch. Another changeup from Matz, but this time it moved outside. Escobar got to it before the catcher could, and he watched the ball glide past the infield dirt, then beyond the outfielders, before it finally landed in the opposing bullpen.
Escobar lifted his right arm in the air as the ball touched down. It was only Escobar’s second home run of the season, but his arm was raised because the monkey was off his back. Escobar went 3-for-7 with a home run, an RBI and a walk across both games of Tuesday’s doubleheader with the St. Louis Cardinals.
“I felt good just because I’ve been working a lot with the hitting coaches,” Escobar said of what was going through his mind after that homer. “To have that moment after the tough times that I’ve been having this season, it really felt good. “I’m just trying to go out there every day to improve and try to help the team win and that’s what I’m going to try to do every single day.”
Maybe all Escobar needed to heat up at the plate was to face Matz. The third baseman is 5-for-10 with two home runs in his career against the former Mets southpaw. But Escobar is hoping the adjustments he’s made at the plate will make a long term impact against the rest of the league.
Escobar has been working with hitting coaches Eric Chavez and Jeremy Barnes in an effort to return to the approach that worked for him earlier in the season. In his first 20 games of 2022, Escobar hit .268 with a .839 OPS and an impressive 14 walks. The free passes Escobar received in those first 20 games were a product of his patience, which was a different, more successful approach than what we’ve seen from him lately. Entering Tuesday, Escobar posted an abysmal .118 / .196 / .177 slashline with only five walks in 13 games in May.
He has been chasing pitches out of the zone instead of doing what he knew would work, getting out in front of pitches like he did for Tuesday’s home run. Even Matz, who hardly shows any emotion on the mound, scrunched up his nose and stared into the opposing bullpen, looking completely baffled as to how his outside changeup traveled 391 feet to center for a home run.
Escobar is at his best when he’s baffling opposing pitchers, something he did very well for the Diamondbacks and Brewers last season, when cranked 28 home runs in 146 games. In 2019, Escobar had 35 homers with 10 triples, the best in the major leagues.
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His teammates and skipper are anxiously waiting for that Escobar to show up, the one fans saw a glimpse of in April during his hot start. Those that know Escobar best on this team are not concerned about his May slump. His work, attention to detail and passion for his craft have all led Buck Showalter to believe it’s just a matter of time before he goes on a tear.
“He’s been working so hard,” the Mets manager said of Escobar. “That’s why it’s tough. Everybody’s got a little spot, just about everybody’s got an area where they can pitch to. And you go through periods where they’re getting the ball there in the right sequences. I think he is first or second in incorrect calls against, in baseball. Balls and strikes. That’s a lot. Do you feel like he’s been arguing a lot of balls and strikes? It’s been tough on him. He’s wore it. It makes you want to support him even more. ”
Brandon Nimmo returned to the Mets lineup on Wednesday against the Cardinals, leading off and playing center as usual, and with the quad contusion he sustained in Game 2 of Tuesday’s doubleheader mostly behind him. The center fielder tested out his quad hours before first pitch on Wednesday and said he was surprised with how good he felt, given how much pain he was in just the night before.
“If you’re not sure how it feels, go home tonight, take a hammer and hit it off your quad,” Showalter said of Nimmo’s contusion.
Nimmo fouled a ball off his quad during a seventh-inning at-bat on Tuesday, and immediately he hopped out of the box in obvious pain. Nimmo returned to the at-bat, though, and sprinted down the line on a routine grounder to shortstop. Once he reached the base, Nimmo limped off the bag and hunched over with his hands on his knees. He did not return to the field, but evidently the rest and ice he applied after the game helped him bounce back to the starting lineup on Wednesday.
Starling Marte (bereavement list) is expected to rejoin the Mets on Thursday, but it’s unclear if he will be activated for their finale series against the Cardinals at Citi Field. It’s possible the Mets will wait until Friday, for their opener at Denver, to activate Marte and make a roster move.
Marte’s grandmother died, suddenly, earlier this week and he flew back to Dominican Republic to be with his family. His grandmother raised Marte after his mom died when he was just 10 years old. Wednesday was also the two-year anniversary of the death of his wife, who died from an unexpected heart attack in 2020.