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Mets’ turnaround from 0-5 start coincides with Bader’s emergence from season-opening slump

 The Associated Press  |    Apr 16th, 2024 12:00am EDT

NEW YORK (AP) — Harrison Bader walked into a new clubhouse for the third time in 18 months and felt empowered as he introduced himself to Mets teammates.

“They might hear some stories about your personality. They might know your game or they might look on Baseball Reference at your numbers, but they really don’t know much about you,” he said. “Waking up every day, coming to the clubhouse, there’s a lot of power in knowing that you can write your own narrative here.”

Bader put the Mets ahead in the eighth inning for the second day in a row, hitting a two-run double off an angry Aroldis Chapman that lifted New York over the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-3 on Monday night.

New York overcame a 3-0, sixth-inning deficit and reached .500 for the first time since the Mets were 30-30 before play last June 6. New York has won eight of 11 following an 0-5 start under first-year manager Carlos Mendoza, its reversal of fortune coinciding with Bader’s turnaround.

Traded from St. Louis to the Yankees in August 2022, the native of suburban Bronxville just north of New York City lasted a little over a year in the Bronx and was claimed off waivers by Cincinnati. He became a free agent last fall and with a value diminished by a third straight injury-interrupted season, Bader returned to New York for a $10.5 million, one-year deal with the Mets.

Wearing a brown beard and mustache that was forbidden by the image-conscious Yankees, Bader hit .192 with one run and no RBIs in the Mets’ first nine games. He is 9 for 20 with six runs and three RBIs since, raising his batting average to .304.

“He brings a lot to the table,” Mendoza said. “He creates traffic.”

New York trailed 3-0 before a three-run sixth that included Francisco Alvarez’s bases-loaded walk off Martín Pérez, a run-scoring throwing error by right fielder Connor Joe and pinch-hitter DJ Stewart’s RBI double against rookie Hunter Stratton.

A day after his go-ahead infield single sparked the Mets to a 2-1 win over Kansas City, the 29-year-old Bader came to the plate in the eighth against Aroldis Chapman, his old New York Yankees teammate.

Jeff McNeil struck out and reached on a wild pitch as Chapman bounced a slider past catcher Henry Davis. Stewart held up his swing for a walk on a full-count pitch, and McNeil and Stewart pulled off a double steal.

Bader took a ball and then a strike, then lined Chapman’s third straight fastball into the left-field corner for a 5-3 lead.

“I knew from center field he has really good stuff,” Bader said. “I was just trying to take a short swing to the ball.”

After Chapman was ejected by plate umpire Edwin Moscoso, Bader stole third and slid home ahead of the throw from second baseman Jared Triolo, who was playing in on Brandon Nimmo’s grounder against Roansy Contreras.

Mendoza credited Bader with perseverance.

“I guarantee you that if you stick to your routine, your preparation, your process, having an idea at the plate of what the pitcher is trying to do to you every pitch, every at-bat, you’re going to be in a good spot,” Mendoza said.

A Gold Glove center fielder with St. Louis in 2021, Bader has yet to fully live up to his promise. He has a .244 average in eight seasons with 59 homers, 218 RBIs and 80 stolen bases.

“The first few games this year, we learned a lot about ourselves,” he said. “I think we proved to ourselves that regardless of the score, we can play our game and chip away.”

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb