NL Best of the Night: Kirk Nieuwenhuis Hits 2 Homers to Cap off Mets' Sweep
Kirk Nieuwenhuis has been a revelation for the New York Mets this season.
Called up after Andres Torres was injured in the first game of the season, Nieuwenhuis has given the Mets consistency at the top of the batting order. Manager Terry Collins has mostly used him in the leadoff and No. 2 spots in the lineup, where the rookie is batting almost .300.
Nieuwenhuis has shown that he has some pop as well, smacking two home runs in a 9-6 slugfest win on Thursday. The victory capped off a surprising three-game sweep over the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. The Mets appeared to be reeling after losing four of their previous five games, but they recovered nicely against the Rays.
Nieuwenhuis led off the game with his first home run, crushing the second pitch from Jeremy Hellickson deep into the right-field seats with a Lucas Duda-like uppercut swing. But his second homer in the fourth inning—a two-run, opposite-field shot—was the decisive blow in the ballgame.
That second homer was a nice piece of hitting, with Nieuwenhuis taking a hanging changeup from Hellickson on the outside part of the plate and shooting it the other way.
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
The Mets needed all the offense they could get, as Johan Santana struggled for the second consecutive start since throwing a no-hitter. The left-hander gave up four runs and six hits over five innings. Unlike his previous start against the Yankees, however, Santana kept the ball in the park and didn't serve up any home runs.
In his past two games, Nieuwenhuis is 5-for-9 (.555) with a double, those two home runs and three RBI. The hot streak has raised his batting average to .298 and pushed his OPS to .789. That's the highest his OPS has been since May 14.
Nieuwenhuis has been near the top of our NL Rookie of the Year rankings all season long. The Bryce Harper train may have already rolled past him, but he remains one of the best rookies in the NL.
He has become a key part of the Mets lineup, making it impossible for Collins to take him out in favor of struggling veterans like Jason Bay.
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