Mark Vientos' production at plate forcing Mets to make decision at third base

In yet another frustrating loss by the Mets on Tuesday night – bringing them six games below .500 for the first time this season – Mark Vientos was a bright spot, going 2-for-4 with two extra-base hits out of the seventh spot in the lineup.

In the starting lineup against a right-hander on the mound over struggling Brett Baty, Vientos hit a home run in the fifth inning off Xzavion Curry for New York’s first run of the game and added a double in the sixth off lefty reliever Sam Hentges. Both hits were clubbed to the deepest part of the ballpark in center field and had exit velocities greater than 106 mph.

“Nice to drive a ball. [It] felt good, but we ended up short so it wasn’t the outcome that I wanted but it felt good off the bat,” Vientos said after the Mets’ 7-6 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

The third baseman is now slashing .360/.407/.720 with two home runs, three doubles, five RBI and a 1.127 OPS in 25 at-bats this season. What’s even more impressive about those numbers is Vientos has been up and down between the majors and minors all season, and even when he’s been on the roster, his playing time has been sporadic, which hasn’t allowed him to settle into any kind of rhythm or groove.

Still, it hasn’t mattered. Time and time again, the 24-year-old has delivered and come up big for New York this year.

“Yeah, experience and doing it before – knowing what it takes to be ready when your name is called,” he said on how his irregular playing time has helped him prepare for every opportunity. “It’s been what, two years now? I feel like I’m gaining experience, I’m also learning from my teammates and they’re helping me out.”

Vientos’ production at the plate, albeit a small sample size, is forcing the Mets to make a decision at third base considering Baty’s continued struggles and the overall lack of consistency in the lineup.

After an 0-for-4 performance with three strikeouts on Monday night, Baty is hitting .228 for the season with 38 strikeouts and has just six extra-base hits in 43 games. By comparison, Vientos has five extra-base hits in eight games.

In fact, with Monday’s disastrous showing, Baty has played a full season’s worth of games in his career and is slashing .214/.278/.323 with 14 home runs and a .601 OPS, looking overmatched and consistently running into the same problems he’s had since his first year in the league.

To be fair, Vientos hasn’t had a fantastic start to his career either, slashing .219/.269/.387 with 12 home runs and a .656 OPS through 89 games. It was also just this season when Baty was hitting like Vientos is now, looking like he had finally figured out how to tap into his potential that made him a top prospect in the Mets’ farm system. Baty is also the better defender of the two and has made great strides in that department this season, even with his struggles at the plate.

Regardless, New York has to ride the hot hand and hope at some point one of these young players can win the job. Right now, Vientos is in the lead.

“Just trying to simplify things. Not trying to do too much up there, get my pitch and drive it,” Vientos said about his approach at the plate. “It all starts with cage work and your routine and your plan and I feel like we’ve been doing a good job over here talking about our approach and our plan and I kinda feel like when you speak it out loud, you go do it out there.”

Having had success against a right-hander on Tuesday (he’s now 3-for-11 with a home run against righties this season) and the Mets facing another righty in the series finale on Wednesday afternoon, will Vientos get another start?

Ultimately that’s manager Carlos Mendoza’s decision, but if Vientos does get the start, he’ll treat it as any other game.

“I’ve faced righties before so it wasn’t really anything different,” he said.