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Jeff McNeil 'working through some things' as slumping veteran out of Mets lineup again

For the second time in four days, Jeff McNeil is out of the Mets’ lineup for Monday night's series opener in Washington.

This marks the second time since the call-up of Jose Iglesias from Triple-A Syracuse that McNeil will not be in the lineup against a left-handed starting pitcher with the Nationals opening the three-game set with lefty MacKenzie Gore on the mound.

“Wanted to get Iglesias in there today,” manager Carlos Mendoza said before the game. “Wanted to give Jeff another day to continue to work on some of the things and get back on track. But it was just more me getting Iglesias in there today.”

McNeil is coming off a rough May in which he batted just .202 with a .565 OPS over 107 plate appearances, those numbers down from his .247 average and .671 OPS over the first 110 plate appearances in March and April.

He has just three hits (all singles) in his last 22 plate appearances with no walks and a strikeout while grounding into two double plays.

Mendoza said the Mets are looking for McNeil to work on “impacting the baseball, hitting line drives.”

“I think he’s lifting the ball a little bit too much,” the skipper said. “This is a guy that won a batting title by hitting line drives from line to line but right now we’re not seeing that consistently.

“He’s [had] stretches for couple of games where you see, ‘Ok, he’s back.’ And then he goes some games where like ‘Alright, he’s just missing pitches.’ So that’s basically it. Want him to square baseballs and hit line drives the way we all know he’s capable of.”

McNeil's flyball 26.8 fly ball percentage this year matches his career-high in his rookie season and is up 4.7 percent from a year ago. His line-drive percentage (24.6) is down 1.1 from the 2023 season and is down 5.4 percent from his stellar 2022 campaign.

Last Friday, with Arizona starting lefty Jordan Montgomery, McNeil was left out of the Mets' starting lineup for just the third time this season and did not appear in the game for the first time on the year. McNeil had two hits in four at-bats in his return to the lineup on Saturday but went 0-for-3 on Sunday.

On the year, McNeil has a better average against left-handers (.246 in 65 at-bats to .217 in 138 at-bats) but his OPS is virtually even (.613 to .618). Last season, McNeil was much better off left-handers, batting .294 with a .753 OPS in 177 at-bats compared to .260 and .693 in 408 at-bats against right-handers.

Mendoza downplayed the connection between McNeil sitting against left-handed pitchers and said the left-righty matchup doesn’t matter when the second baseman is playing at his best.

“When he’s on, it doesn’t matter who’s on the mound,” he said. “He’s pretty good against lefties when he’s on. When he’s feeling right, this is not just strictly a righty or lefty match, but it’s just like more getting Jeff back on track

“… He’s a good hitter. Right now, he’s working through some things.”

Mendoza added that McNeil is “a professional” and “will be ready” when his name is called.

“We know he’ll show emotions at times when things are not going his way, but he will continue to work. That’s what we’ve seen from him,” he said of the seven-year MLB veteran. “He’s out there, he’s battling, he’s playing hard.”