SAN FRANCISCO — As Jeff McNeil was getting ready to speak to reporters following the Mets’ 9-3 loss to the Giants on Wednesday, there was Starling Marte, who was standing just a couple of lockers away.
“He’s OK, he’s OK. He can play,” Marte called out.
With the Mets trailing 9-1 in the bottom of the third, McNeil sprinted toward the left field side wall and made a terrific catch just before smashing into that wall. Both his face and knee collided into the wall and he was immediately down, face-first, on the dirt. Buck Showalter ran out of the dugout to left field to check on him, as did a trainer and a few other players, but McNeil soon stood up and remained in the game until the end of the inning.
“It was a pretty good collision,” said McNeil, who added that he wasn’t expecting to hit the wall when he made the catch in fair territory.
He was replaced by Travis Jankowski in the top of the fourth, and the Mets later announced that he was removed from the game with a left knee contusion. McNeil, standing at his locker after the game, said he felt good and should be ready to be back in the starting lineup on Friday against the Phillies.
Showalter echoed McNeil, saying that he passed concussion protocol and wanted to keep playing. But, with the Mets down eight runs in the third, the skipper thought it was best to let him rest and play it safe.
“I think everything hit [the wall], watching the replay,” McNeil said. “I think my glasses are scraped up a little bit. So I think everything got it pretty good. It was mostly the knee. When I was out there, the pain started going away. Felt good running in from the outfield.” Notably, Giants fans and Mets fans both cheered for McNeil as he walked off the field at the end of the inning. McNeil said the San Francisco fans told him he made a good effort, and that they respected the catch that he went all out for.
Some Mets fans were peeved that McNeil would try so hard on a play and risk his season with a potentially severe injury when the Mets were losing 9-1. But, for McNeil, he said he’ll always play the game hard while giving a 100% effort.
“That’s kind of who I am,” McNeil said. “That’s how I’ve played the game my whole life. I don’t think I’m ever going to stop playing hard. You don’t want to just let that ball drop and it’s a double. So I’m going to go all out and keep making those plays.”
The Mets, who lost back-to-back games for just the second time this season, will get a day to reset on Thursday on a scheduled off-day following a trip to the west coast. The Amazin’s went 3-3 on their six-game road trip against the Rockies and Giants, and they’re 11-9 in their last 20 games. Throughout that stretch, the Mets have maintained a steady first-place lead in the National League East.
The Mets have two more trips to the west coast this season — the next one arriving as soon as next week, with the other being a six-game trip to Milwaukee and Oakland in late September.
“Let’s face it, it’s a travel day,” Showalter said of how appreciative he is of Thursday’s day off. “These trips, we got two more of them. They’re tough on the team. We finished .500 on the trip. We’ve played 28% of our season. I’m proud of the way they competed on this trip.”
The Mets will start Carlos Carrasco for the series opener against the Phillies on Friday at Citi Field, followed by Taijuan Walker on Saturday. Team officials are still considering whether to start Chris Bassitt or David Peterson for the series finale on Sunday.
Bassitt was dealing with a sinus infection on Tuesday, and he worked out on the field Wednesday to give the Mets an idea of whether he’s feeling better. Bassitt would be pitching on his normal fifth day if he took the hill on Sunday.