Is Vogelbach’s 1st HR sign of more to come?

Is Vogelbach’s 1st HR sign of more to come?

6:59 AM UTC

LOS ANGELES — Over his first 31 plate appearances of the season, Daniel Vogelbach walked eight times. He contributed three singles and a double. He sported one of the better on-base percentages in the National League despite a sub-.200 batting average.

And yet the most glaring column on the back of his baseball card was the one with a zero in it. In those 31 plate appearances, Vogelbach did not hit any balls over the fence.

That trend changed in the second inning of the Mets’ 8-6 win over the Dodgers on Monday, when Vogelbach tracked a 96.3 mph Dustin May sinker toward the outer edge of the strike zone and redirected it over Dodger Stadium’s left-center-field fence. The two-run homer gave the Mets their first lead in a game that remained in the balance until the final inning. It also offered Vogelbach evidence that his brand is doing just fine.

“I pride myself in walking and hitting the ball hard,” Vogelbach said. “What I try to do is walk and hit homers.”

Walking is a skill set that tends not to slump for extended periods of time. Power is the opposite, ebbing and flowing throughout a season. When Vogelbach is at his best, he features well-above-average power, as evidenced by his 30-homer season in 2019. But until Monday, Vogelbach had given the Mets only modest muscle since joining them last July, with six home runs in 65 games. The Mets entered the night ranked 25th in the Majors in designated hitter slugging, after finishing 20th in that category a year ago.

That’s not all on Vogelbach’s shoulders, but he’s been the largest part of an equation that’s included Robinson Canó, Dominic Smith, J.D. Davis, Darin Ruf and Vogelbach’s current platoon partner, Tommy Pham. For the last nine months, Vogelbach has been a central part of general manager Billy Eppler’s plans. So the Mets were pleased to see him homer off one of the Dodgers’ best young pitchers as part of a three-RBI night.

“We knew Vogey’s going to get it going,” manager Buck Showalter said.

With Vogelbach and Brett Baty producing, the Mets were able to challenge May and four relievers, rapping out 14 hits (including a Baty RBI single). So often this season, the offense has gone as Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor have gone. And while those two did their parts in the win, New York showed what its lineup can look like when the bottom half is clicking. The Mets erased Dodger leads in the second, fourth and seventh innings, taking advantage of a game-tying balk to make David Peterson a winner despite his six earned runs in six innings.

“They punched,” Vogelbach said, “and we punched back.”

For Vogelbach, the timing was important. If Baty’s promotion to the Majors proved anything, it’s that the Mets are willing to take action if action is needed. Eppler is fond of saying he always strives to make the best baseball decisions possible, regardless of circumstance. Were Vogelbach to fall into an extended slump, the left-handed half of this DH platoon would be an obvious place for Eppler to do something similar, particularly considering the Mets aren’t committed to him beyond this season.

But Vogelbach has other ideas. Since joining the Mets, he has hit .247/.393/.425 in 66 games. He’s been effective if not dominant against right-handed pitchers. He believes he has the capability to start hitting homers “in bunches.”

If Vogelbach can, the entire Mets lineup will benefit.

“It’s early in the season,” Vogelbach said. “I always say it takes a long time to have a good season. So you just try to put your head down, and we’ll look up at the end of the year and see where we’re at.”

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