September 10, 2017 / 2:41 AM / in 9 months

Plawecki makes case for playing time in Mets win vs. Reds

Plawecki makes case for playing time in Mets win vs. Reds

NEW YORK — Kevin Plawecki doesn’t know if the ball sounds any different coming off his bat. All he knows is he feels a lot more comfortable at the plate than at any other time over the last three seasons with the New York Mets.

Plawecki continued to stake a claim for 2018 playing time by crushing a two-run homer off the left field deck in the second inning Saturday night to give the Mets all the offense they would need in a 6-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds at Citi Field.

The homer was the second in the last 14 games for Plawecki following his promotion from Triple-A Las Vegas on Aug. 19. His major league resume at that point consisted of a .206 average, four homers and 97 strikeouts in 389 at-bats dating back to 2015.

But his first homer this season, hours after his recall, was also a shot deep into the left field seats whose distance, as well as the sound it made off the bat, warranted a double-take from those accustomed to seeing Plawecki struggle at the plate.

“Just trying to put a good swing on it and kind of let the result take care of itself from there,” Plawecki said. “But obviously it’s a good feeling when you connect on one.”

Plawecki, who is batting .302 with just four strikeouts in 43 at-bats since his promotion, admitted he was motivated by being sent down for a third straight season on May 25 and eager to prove what he could do once granted regular playing time.

Plawecki hit .338 with eight homers and 38 RBIs in 54 games at Las Vegas between stints with the Mets. He has started 10 of 22 games since his recall, with Travis d’Arnaud, New York’s starter since 2015, drawing the other 12 assignments.

“When I was up here before, I played once every five days. It’s hard to get into a rhythm, even when I felt like I was having some good at-bats,” Plawecki said. “Went down there with a little chip on my shoulder, went back to work and used it as a time to kind of lock that swing down so that when I got back up here, there was no turning back.”

Plawecki was one of several young players to contribute Saturday to the rebuilding Mets (63-79), who have won the first three games of the four-game series and have earned four straight victories for the first time since July 19-22.

Rafael Montero (5-9) wriggled out of trouble all night in winning his career-high third straight start. Montero allowed one run, four hits and five walks while striking out five over five innings. He stranded eight runners, including five in scoring position, between the second and fifth.

“This is the first time Raffy’s pitched as much as he has at this level,” Mets manager Terry Collins said of Montero, who entered the season having thrown 73 1/3 big league innings but ranks second on the staff this year with 101 2/3 innings. “He gave us five, he threw a lot of pitches (97), but he limited the damage and that was impressive.”

Rookie Chasen Bradford, the first of three relievers, succeeded Montero and tossed 1 2/3 hitless innings.

Another rookie, first baseman Dominic Smith, drew a walk to set up Plawecki’s homer before extending the Mets’ lead to 3-1 in the sixth with an RBI single. A pair of 30-somethings, Nori Aoki (two-run single) and Asdrubal Cabrera (RBI double), capped the Mets’ scoring in the seventh.

Aoki’s hit extended his hitting streak to 11 games.

Scott Schebler lofted a sacrifice fly in the second for the Reds (61-82) while Scooter Gannett had two hits.

“It really got away from us when we didn’t drive in the runs there early in the game,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “We had a lot of opportunities against Montero and we didn’t do anything with them. And when you wait around, they’re able to tack on runs.”

Reds right-hander Homer Bailey (4-8) allowed five runs, six hits and three walks while striking out five in six-plus innings. Bailey, who has made just 23 starts since 2015 due to various arm injuries, has recorded an out in the seventh inning once in 15 starts this year.

“We’re trying to get him to get over that hurdle of being a six-inning guy,” Price said. “Still has good stuff. He just wasn’t able to get through it.”

NOTES: Mets SS Amed Rosario (right index finger), who sat the previous five games, pinch ran and scored for RHP Jacob deGrom in the seventh inning. Manager Terry Collins said Rosario would start Sunday. ... Binghamton, the Mets’ Double-A affiliate, was eliminated from the Eastern League semifinals Saturday with a 9-1 loss to Trenton in Game 4. ... Reds RF Jesse Winker (left hip) ran the bases Saturday and is on pace to be activated within days. ... Pensacola, the Reds’ Double-A affiliate, will be declared co-champions of the Southern League after completing a semifinal series sweep of Jacksonville on Friday. The championship series was postponed because of Hurricane Irma.

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