New York — Jeff McNeill He stayed on top without swinging.
McNeil had a four-point lead in the big league batting race, and he wasn’t in the New York Mets lineup on Wednesday in the regular season final against Washington. He only played defense after coming in late and finishing at the highest rate in the major leagues – one point ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers star. Freddy Freeman.
“It’s definitely a dream come true,” said McNeill. “One of my goals in baseball is to win the batting team.”
Buck Showalter, the Mets manager, said it was his decision to sit McNeill as New York geared up for a wild card playoff series against the San Diego Padres that begins Friday night.
“I wouldn’t put that on it,” said Showalter. “The most important thing is Friday. Everything else takes a second.”
However, Showalter hinted that McNeil could have come off the bench earlier if he needed a hit or two to keep Freeman out of the National League title.
“I don’t trust my account well enough – I’ve had some help. I don’t want to be wrong,” Showalter said before the match, laughing. ‘So at least I’ll have someone to blame, though I’ll have to wear it.’
McNeil led the majors with an average of 326. Minnesota Louis Araz He won the AL batting crown with an average of 0.316, making him his first-time batting champion in both leagues.
Showalter said of McNeill, “He earned it all the way. To be able to give him a moment he deserved – he didn’t ask for it, he was going to play tonight, and all that stuff. He won it all.”
Freeman was in .322 after going 0 for 4 on Tuesday night against Colorado, and needed to go 4 for 4 or better on Wednesday to outsmart McNeil. The 2020 NL MVP went 3 for 4 with a home run and two RBIs to finish at 0.325.
“I was close,” Freeman said. “I’ve tried it.”
McNeil and his teammates were watching the game, as the start of the New York game was delayed by nearly two hours due to rain.
“You get a little nervous,” said McNeil. “He’s a good racket. It’s Freddy Freeman. Four strokes is normal for him.”
Freeman flew to the warning track in fifth for fifth, but ended his hopes.
“He swayed really well,” said McNeill. “It was fortunate that this guy stayed in the park.”
Freeman finished the season with 199 hits and 100 RBI for the NL West Champions.
Once the Dodgers completed a 6-1 win over Colorado, the Mets flashed a message on the large video board in midfield midway through the fourth inning congratulating McNeil on winning the batting crown.
He received a standing ovation from the Citi Field crowd, but it appears he was not in the dugout at the time. A few moments later, he came out wearing a Mets jacket and smiled as he raised his hat to the jubilant fans.
“I expect to be a 0.300 hitter every year, so that’s where I want to be,” said McNeil, who topped the 0.300 three times before dropping to 0.251 last year. “I wanted to go back to where I am now.”
With the Mets close to a 9-2 win, McNeil entered to play second base in eighth place with that Louis Gillorm Can slip into shortstop and Francisco Lindor He could come off the field with a standing ovation from the fans.
McNeill knew he could afford to make one on the board and still beat Freeman—but his place in the rankings never came.
McNeil said, “I’m happy with the way it went. I think I played 148 games. I played more than my entire career. So it was nice to have a day.”
A while ago, Lindor promised to buy McNeil’s car if he won the batting crown.
“I’ll get him a car,” Lindor said with a smile. “I didn’t specify any.”
“I’m sure he’s got something up his sleeve, so we’ll see,” McNeill said. “I hope it’s something cool.”
McNeil became the first Mets player to lead the major teams in batting. Jose Reyes was the only former player in franchise history to win the Premier League batting title, when he reached 0.337 in 2011.
“I’ll get him a car. I didn’t specify any.”
Francisco Lindor on his promise to Jeff McNeill
Reyes faced criticism that year when he opened the season finale with a single, then left the game to protect his lead.
Hall of Fame player Ted Williams was best known for playing both games with a double header on the final day of the 1941 campaign when sitting outside the field would have ensured a batting average of 400. Williams went 6 for 8 to finish at .406, making him the last major rider to hit .400.
But players who sit down on the last day of the season to keep stats or individual achievements hardly unheard of – especially when resting in the playoffs.
McNeil finished the season in a 10-game winning streak. Hitting .465 (20 vs. 43) in eight multi-hit matches from Sept. 23.
He hits .287 enters play on July 30, leaving far behind Freeman (.319) and the St. Louis Cardinals. Paul Goldschmidt (.334). But the 30-year-old McNeill, a two-time All-Star, hit 0.378 next.
The .243 overall major league hit average was the lowest since a record low of 0.237 in 1968, the last season before bowler hill was taken down. MLB will ban defensive shifts starting next year, a move likely to help hitters.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.