Yoenis Cespedes sauntered a step or two toward first base, bat in hand, eyes transfixed on his handiwork. Upward the ball went on a sharp arc to left field, crashing down about a third of the way up Busch Stadium’s second deck.
As Cespedes rounded the bases, chain jangling against his chest, he did not yet know that he had hit the longest, hardest home run of his Mets career, contributing half of the club’s offense in Tuesday’s 6-5 win over the Cardinals. But he did realize this could be the spark he needs to emerge from a season-long slump.
Cespedes crushed his 115.1-mph, 463-foot homer off Luke Weaver in the fifth inning for the hardest and longest home run any Mets player has hit since Statcast™ began tracking in 2015. The game-tying three-run shot was the third longest by a visiting player in Busch history, according to Cardinals records, and the second longest hit in St. Louis over the past four seasons.
Cespedes’ previous long was a 457-foot homer in San Francisco in 2016. The Mets’ previous longest homer tracked by Statcast™ was Justin Ruggiano’s 461-foot shot in 2016, also at Busch Stadium. Although Cespedes’ Tuesday blast was projected just two feet longer, its combination of speed, distance and trajectory had several teammates in the Mets’ dugout mouthing, “Wow.”
“I thought it maybe was going to clear the left-field fence, just barely,” manager Mickey Callaway said, laughing.
For Cespedes, the Statcast™ accolades were a bonus. The home run’s importance in a game the Mets won was paramount.
Perhaps even more critical was what it could mean for Cespedes’ future.
Entering the night in a 10-for-61 (.164) slump with 28 strikeouts, Cespedes lined into a double play and struck out in his first two at-bats against Weaver. Despite contributing game-winning RBIs on three separate occasions in April, Cespedes also rose to the top of the Major League strikeout leaderboard, bemoaning often that he couldn’t find his timing at the plate.
Things grew grim enough that Cespedes, an avid golfer who gave up the game in an attempt to keep his legs healthy during the season, said last weekend that he is considering playing again as a way to streamline his swing mechanics. The only reason he didn’t do so on Monday’s off-day, Cespedes indicated, was because all eight sets of clubs that he owns are at his home in Florida.
No matter. Working ahead in the count, 3-1, against Weaver, Cespedes dropped his bat head to meet a changeup that broke in toward him, low in the zone. Five-and-a-half seconds later, the ball landed, perhaps carrying a bit of Cespedes’ slump with it.
“In that at-bat, he was losing the strike zone with the fastball, so I was hoping to catch a changeup,” Cespedes said through an interpreter. “Then, I caught it. And I hit it.”
News by MLB