Dom Smith fooled the announcers, the analytics and the Mets’ dugout.
The fly ball to left field off his bat in the third inning Wednesday afternoon initially looked more like a sacrifice fly than a grand slam to the SNY television and WFAN radio crews calling the action off monitors 650 miles away from Cincinnati. The swing was only expected to generate a .110 batting average, according to Baseball Savant.
And yet Jesse Winker kept drifting towards the wall until he ran out of room and watched helplessly as the ball landed in the first row of seats to plate four runs in a 7-0 victory at Great American Ballpark.
“I hit it on the barrel pretty well,” Smith said. “This park is pretty friendly for hitters, so you just have to play your elements.”
Smith’s grand slam followed three straight singles that had starting pitcher Jeff Hoffman living on the edge for consistently falling behind early in counts. No sooner had analyst Ron Darling suggested Smith should be looking to jump on the first pitch than he lifted a 75 mph curveball to the opposite field.
“There’s nowhere to put me and I know he’s just trying to get ahead,” Smith said. “He’s trying to throw his best pitches to get me out. Throughout the first couple innings, he got a lot of soft contact on breaking balls, including I popped one up. That’s just something I took note of and I was just ready to hit.”
The Mets hit 11 home runs during the three-game series. All seven runs in the finale scored via the long ball.
“We’ve seen some balls leave the yard that we don’t think are going to leave the yard,” manager Luis Rojas admitted.
Smith also singled in four at-bats to continue an excellent month represented by his 1.012 OPS since July 1. He had three homers in his first three games this month and added two more during the three games in Cincinnati. He has 14 RBIs in the last 17 games.
Smith’s fourth-inning single only had a .130 expected batting average as he accounted for two of the three hits in the game with a sub.-230 measurement. Good luck or commitment to studying video paying off?
“I try to get better with my swing, with my approach, with the pitches I’m swinging at,” Smith said. “If you can simplify the game a little bit and swing at good pitches, then I think you’ll have pretty good numbers at the end of the year. That’s something I didn’t do at the beginning of the year and I’m starting to do — control the strike zone. The ball is starting to carry and leave the yard.”
Even when it doesn’t look like it will.
“In that situation with the bases loaded, you are just trying to get a runner in,” Smith said. “I hit it good enough to score the run and advance the next runner. That’s what my job was, but in this case it went out. I’ll take it every time.”