Sports

Jonathan Villar giving Mets production and versatility

A majority of the Mets’ offseason signings haven’t come close to meeting expectations, but there’s at least one who has stood out as a consistent contributor.

Jonathan Villar stayed red-hot Thursday night in the Mets’ 4-3 win over the Marlins, smacking his eighth-career leadoff home run off the first pitch he saw to cut his team’s first-inning deficit 2-1. The Marlins had jumped out to a quick two-run lead behind Miguel Rojas’ leadoff homer and an RBI single from Jesus Aguilar.

Since signing a one-year, $3.55 million contract in February, Villar has been the most reliable of the Mets’ offseason acquisitions, but the 30-year-old journeyman has particularly shined at the plate recently. Not only has he been productive offensively, but Villar’s versatility on the field and ability to remain healthy has been beneficial.

Over his past nine games, he is batting .464 with two home runs, five runs and four RBIs. Heading into the finale of the Mets’ nine-game homestand on Thursday, Villar had slashed .333/.386/.569 in the previous 23 contests. He’s also led the team, along with Lindor, with 10 stolen bases.

Jonathan Villar belts a leadoff homer in the first inning of the Mets’ 4-3 win over the Marlins.
Robert Sabo

With 17 homers this season, Villar has more than Michael Conforto (10) and J.D. Davis (5) combined.

“He’s been one of our best offensive players, if not our best offensive player,” manager Luis Rojas said before the Mets extended their winning streak to four. “He can be used in so many ways. But he’s swinging well from both sides of the plate. He can hit for power, he can get a single and steal a bag. It’s just pure pressure offensively for the opposing team.”

In an attempt to jump-start an underachieving lineup, Rojas has used Villar as the leadoff hitter in every game he has started since Saturday’s win over the Nationals. Villar led off again and played third base Thursday night, finishing 1-for-3 with the homer and two strikeouts.

Villar has strung together a four-game hitting streak in which he has gone 7-for-16, including two multi-hit games. Helping propel the Mets to a 9-4 victory over Washington on Sunday, Villar was a double shy of hitting for the cycle after recording a single, a two-run home run and a triple.

“Having him at the top, like we’ve been using him, I think has been a key for our offense to win some games,” Rojas said. “The last games that we won is because of that huge connection between him and [Brandon] Nimmo at the top of the lineup with hitting the ball hard, getting on base, speed, getting on base by Nimmo as well and connecting to [Pete] Alonso, Francisco [Lindor] or whoever follows them.

“Jonathan has been huge for us offensively lately.”

The Mets have relied on Villar, who is in his ninth MLB season after stints with the Astros, Brewers, Orioles, Marlins and Blue Jays, as injuries continued to pile up. Despite landing on the 10-day injured list in late June with a calf injury, Villar has been relatively healthy all season.

While he has filled in for Lindor when the latter suffered an oblique strain that sidelined him for over a month, Villar has also seen time at both second and third.

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