NEW YORK – Something strange caught Jeff McNeil’s eye in Round 4 on Saturday night: an eagle – or so he thought – crashing into the upper deck of Citi Field.
An interesting omen with McNeil’s Mets facing their rival Philadelphia.
With polar bears, flying squirrels, raccoons and rats, New York has rallied around several critters in recent years.
It’s time for a new one: Fly, McNeil, Fly!
McNeil hit a three-run home run moments after witnessing a giant bird wreck in a driveway in right field, Francisco Lindor drove in three to extend his RBI streak to a career-best six games and the Mets beat the Phillies 8-2 on Saturday night.
“I just saw it before I took that hit at bat and I homered,” McNeil said.
The rain started to fall in the bottom of the fourth with New York trailing 2-1. McNeil was at the end of the canoe, about to go on deck, when he spotted a commotion to the right. He turned to manager Buck Showalter and tried to explain that he had just witnessed an eagle smash in the stands.
“I was kind of staring into space, into nothingness, and I saw something,” McNeil said. “I don’t know what it was. It was a bird.”
Meanwhile, the Mets rallied against starter Zach Eflin (1-4). Lindor walked and Pete Alonso picked, then McNeil homered into the second deck in right field, two fairways from where the bird fell. He flipped his bat and looked into the New York dugout as the ball rolled into the seats for a 4-2 lead.
It’s unclear what the bird actually was, but it caused a brief disturbance in right field, where many fans were trying to flee for shelter from the rain.
McNeil, nicknamed the flying squirrel in college, has been at the center of a few animal-related incidents at Citi Field. He and Lindor argued in the dugout last year and suspected him of blaming a rodent debate after a comeback victory. McNeil also did a home run after meeting a pup before the game in 2019, then convinced his wife to adopt the fuzzy dog.
As for that eagle?
“Just a coincidence, I guess,” he said.
Taijuan Walker (3-0) held the Phillies to two runs in five innings, Luis Guillorme tied a career high with three hits and the NL East leaders improved to 31-17. They’ll attempt a three-game sweep Sunday night in their final game against Philadelphia until Aug. 12.
Bryce Harper, Nick Castellanos and JT Realmuto had two hits apiece, but the Phillies stumbled with another weak defense in the outfield and went 1 of 9 with runners in scoring position.
The rain stopped in the fifth, but the Mets didn’t. Guillorme started with a bunt single, Starling Marte doubled and both scored on Lindor’s triple. Lindor drove in another run with a single in the seventh and had 14 RBIs over his six-game series.
“He played on a lot of pitches to the white side of the plate,” Showalter said.
Lindor’s triple was a long fly ball that jumped off the fence to left center between Phillies outfielders Kyle Schwarber and Odubel Herrera. The pair collided on the warning track and bounced off the wall together, the latest mistake by the maligned Philadelphia defenders.
“I think they probably both had an opportunity,” manager Joe Girardi said. “But I have to take a closer look at it.”
Alonso followed with a sacrificial fly, making him the first Mets player to rack up 29 RBIs in May. Alonso leads the majors with 46 RBIs in 48 games.
Dominic Smith’s sacrificial volley in the second made New York 1-0, but Philadelphia took the lead in the fourth. Realmuto’s base-laden line drive passed just past a diving Guillorme at second base for a two-run single and a 2-1 advantage.
Eflin covered six innings but was charged with seven runs. He struck out four after hitting 12 Los Angeles Dodgers in his previous outing.
Phillies: Harper was hit in the foot by Rhys Hoskins’ foul ball while leading third base in the third inning, but stayed in the game.
Dishes: RHP Jacob deGrom said his injured right shoulder blade was “completely normal” and he is waiting for New York medical staff to clear him to start throwing a mound again. …CF Brandon Nimmo had an MRI of his right wrist which came out clean, but was ruled out of alignment. Showalter said he expects Nimmo to get an injection, but he doesn’t anticipate New York’s leadoff batter missing much time. … RHP Yoan Lopez has been cast for Triple-A Syracuse, and OF Nick Plummer has been called up.
Former Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler (3-3, 3.38) starts for the Phillies against New York RHP Chris Bassitt (4-2, 3.91) on Sunday night. Wheeler is 4-2 with a 2.58 ERA in nine starts against the Mets since signing a five-year, $118 million contract with Philadelphia ahead of the 2020 season.