Home Run Derby champ Pete Alonso still smashing even while dealing with second-half slump

Yahoo Sports

SAN FRANCISCO – In the days after winning the Home Run Derby, the world learned that Pete Alonso’s comical line about jelly and English muffins that he had used to describe the event had been scripted.

Jimmy Fallon had Alonso and other MLB stars drop in random lines during interviews, and Alonso’s was: “It doesn’t matter how much jelly you have in the jar, it’s about how you spread it on your English muffin.”

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Alonso had plenty of jelly to spread while winning the Derby, but the second half has not been as kind to the New York Mets rookie phenom. The slugger entered Saturday in a 3-for-30 funk that landed him on the bench for Saturday’s matinee against the San Francisco Giants.

The slugger has insisted the Derby is not the reason why he’s slumped.

“Lot of jelly left,” Alonso joked Saturday morning.

Hours later, Alonso showcased why it would be unwise to bet against him with the rookie delivering the first pinch-hit homer of his career, a three-run bomb off Giants lefty Derek Holland that all but sealed the Mets’ 11-4 win at Oracle Park.

Alonso now has four hits since the break, and three are homers. His three RBIs set the new franchise rookie record with 75 RBIs.

“Great day off. Or, it wasn’t a day off. I’ll call it a mental health day,” Alonso joked after the game. “A great mental health day.”

The Home Run Derby curse is a long-discussed idea that has mostly been debunked. There certainly have been those who have seen their power dip in the second half like David Wright in 2006 and Bobby Abreu in 2005.

There are also those who have crushed the second half like last year’s championBryce Harper, who posted a .972 OPS after the All-Star break.

Alonso’s power has not disappeared to start the second half with the slugger owning a pair of 400-foot bombs, including a 474-foot moonshot Wednesday in Minnesota.

It appears Alonso could be battling some fatigue in his first season. He won the Derby, played in the All-Star Game, and had just one day off before resuming play.

“I don’t feel worn down,” Alonso said. “For me, just playing and going about my business, sometimes I can’t really see the big picture and if you have an outside lens if someone sees something, then I trust that. ... I hate days off.”

New York Mets rookie Pete Alonso hit a pinch-hit three-run home run on Saturday. (Getty Images)
New York Mets rookie Pete Alonso hit a pinch-hit three-run home run on Saturday. (Getty Images)

Teammate Todd Frazier knows from experience what it’s like to enter the second half after winning the Derby, and he told Mets manager Mickey Callaway that he felt gassed after the event. He agreed that a day on the bench can help.

“When I did it in 2015, I was drained,” Frazier said. “People are like, ‘It’s going to ruin your swing.’ That’s not true at all. You’re a professional hitter. It’s like when you get in a slump. You figure it out. I don’t believe your swing goes bad, you’re just tired.”

He added: “You’re not mentally all there because you’re tired. You get in some bad tendencies and a day off helps. … I don’t care how old you are, it’s going to take a toll on you.”

While Alonso’s power stroke has not disappeared in the second half, his slump has coincided with his decline in plate discipline.

Alonso entered Saturday swinging at 37.1 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone this month compared to just 28.8 percent in July, according to Fangraphs. The slugger is also only making contact on just 64.3 percent of his swings in July after doing so at a 76.1 clip last month.

The first baseman has struck out in 13 of his 31 at-bats, and noted that he needs to see the ball longer.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily recognition, it’s just more plate discipline. I haven’t been capitalizing on pitches that usually I drive or hit hard,” Alonso said. “I’ve been chasing a lot. I know what pitch it is, it’s just the location. I need to get better at it. I’m an aggressive hitter. I need to reel back a little bit. That’s it.”

Alonso has also been a victim of bad luck since he’s made five outs on balls that had an expected batting average of at least .510.

“I have hit a lot of balls hard,” Alonso said. “I’m really confident in the way I’ve been swinging it, it’s just I could be a little more refined. Bring it back a little bit and use today as a good learning experience and watch the game. Be ready.”

Perhaps Saturday’s hit can galvanize Alonso with his three-run shot to right-center in the sixth off Holland giving the Mets an 8-1 lead.

His replacement, Dom Smith, drove in four runs the day after making the error that cost the Mets in the 10th inning of their 1-0 loss on Friday. His second-inning shot off Giants starter Jeff Samardzija gave the Mets the lead for good.

Walker Lockett earned his first career win with five innings of one-run ball.

“[Alonso’s day off] went really good. That’s what you want,” Callaway said. “One at-bat, three RBIs, one homer, and go rest some more.”

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