Jeff McNeil looking to become 2nd Mets player to win batting title: ‘There’s a lot of pride’

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Jeff McNeil (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Jeff McNeil woke up Tuesday morning with the National League lead in batting average after Freddie Freeman went 0 for 8 collectively on Sunday and Monday for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Going into Tuesday night’s series opener against the Washington Nationals, the 30-year-old southpaw is coming off a searing streak against the Atlanta Braves in which he went 7 for 13 with a home run and two RBIs. .

He extended his hitting streak to eight games where he’s batting .486 (17 for 37), taking his season mark to .326 — one point ahead of Freeman for the NL lead.

The Mets have only had one other batting champion in franchise history when Jose Reyes hit .337 in 2011.

“There is a lot of pride. We’re proud of Jeff and what he’s done,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said Tuesday. “Especially when you’re up against the best hitters in the world.”

For someone as superstitious as Showalter, who will always let you know the baseball gods will laugh at you when you tell them about your plans, such remarks about McNeil’s pursuit of a batting title were rare.

“Yeah, I talk to Jeff about it from time to time. I even talked to him a bit about it today,” he said. “He never comes to say this or that. He runs after team stuff. If it’s a by-product of it, so be it… It hasn’t quite gotten the attention and notoriety it normally would because of where we are as a team. I guess that’s a good thing.

Another byproduct of McNeil’s great season is that he ranks second on the Mets’ all-time batting average list (.307) only behind John Olerud’s .315.

It remains to be seen how many more games this regular season McNeil will have to clinch the title thanks to the relentless rain in Queens, but Showalter said he wouldn’t put the decision to play or sit in the hands of “the ‘squirrel’ if he is in the lead on the last day of the season.

“I would never put him in that position. I don’t think it’s fair for him,” Showalter said. “But I’ll probably watch the Dodgers [to see how Freeman is doing]… Let’s see what tomorrow has in store for us. I think that’s something the manager should be aware of.

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