Gator in MLB: Mets’ Alonso hits 52nd HR to tie rookie mark

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New York Mets' Pete Alonso takes a curtain call after hitting his 52nd home run of the season during the first inning Friday against the Atlanta Braves in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

NEW YORK — The Polar Bear has his paws on a major league record.

Pete Alonso (University of Florida) hit his 52nd homer to match Aaron Judge’s rookie mark in the New York Mets’ 4-2 win over the Atlanta Braves on Friday night. He has two games left to claim the record outright.

Alonso connected in the first inning against Dallas Keuchel, narrowly clearing the wall in left field for a solo shot that tied Judge’s total from his breakout season with the New York Yankees in 2017.

The 24-year-old Alonso smiled as he hurried around the bases and pointed to the home fans as he crossed the plate. Teammates greeted him with handshakes outside the dugout, and the crowd at Citi Field insisted on a curtain call.

“Unbelievable,” Alonso said. “When I was rounding the bases I felt like a little kid. I felt like a 7-year-old kid. I was just really kind of overcome with pure joy.”

Keuchel was booed when he walked Alonso in the third inning, and the big slugger popped up and struck out in his final two at-bats.

“I knew it was going to happen eventually,” Judge said after the Yankees’ 14-7 victory at Texas. “Just the type of swing he has and watching someone’s at-bats early on in the year. This kid … this one’s special. He’s got something about it. You saw his great determination in that Home Run Derby, too. He’s got the ‘it’ factor.”

Alonso leads Cincinnati’s Eugenio Suárez by three for the majors’ home run lead and would be the first rookie since at least 1900 to claim the big league crown outright. Manager Mickey Callaway said he may bat Alonso leadoff in the final two games to get him extra at-bats, and Alonso was eager to slide up a spot.

A history major in college with “an affinity for that kind of stuff,” Alonso said he’s struggling to comprehend the accomplishment.

“When I think of baseball history, I think old-timey guys like Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds,” Alonso said. “Geez, I mean, to think that as a rookie I hit more homers than everyone except for one guy, it’s nuts. It’s crazy. I’m not trying to sound any other way. It’s just, wow.”

Alonso has already set franchise records for homers, total bases (343) and extra-base hits (84). He has 119 RBIs and 100 runs, becoming the first Mets rookie to reach triple digits in both categories. No New York player had reached those totals in any season since David Wright and Carlos Beltran in 2008.

Alonso’s 119 RBIs are five shy of Wright’s franchise record set in ’08.

“He’s been outstanding,” Callaway said. “There’s just something about Pete that draws everybody in.”

TOAST OF THE TOWN

Alonso’s only conversations with Judge have been quick chats at first base during games, but Alonso said he may reach out and try to get dinner with Judge in the offseason. He grinned when asked about embracing a cross-borough home run rivalry.

“There’s nothing wrong with some friendly competition,” he said.