NEW YORK — Something odd caught Jeff McNeil’s eye during the fourth inning Saturday night: an eagle — or so he thought — crashing into the upper deck at Citi Field.
An interesting omen with McNeil’s Mets facing rival Philadelphia.
With polar bears, flying squirrels, racoons and rats, New York has rallied itself around several critters in recent years.
Time for a new one: Fly, McNeil, Fly!
McNeil hit a go-ahead, three-run homer moments after witnessing a giant bird wreck into an aisle in right field, Francisco Lindor drove in three to extend his RBI streak to a career-best six games and the Mets beat the Phillies 8-2 on Saturday night.
“I just saw it before I took that at-bat, and I hit a homer,” McNeil said.
Rain began pouring in the bottom of the fourth with New York trailing 2-1. McNeil was at the end of the dugout, about to go on-deck, when he spotted a commotion in right. He turned to manager Buck Showalter and tried to explain that he’d just witnessed an eagle smash into the stands.
“I was kind of staring out into space, into nothing, and I saw something,” McNeil said. “I don’t know what it was. It was a bird.”
Meanwhile, the Mets were rallying against starter Zach Eflin (1-4). Lindor walked and Pete Alonso singled, then McNeil roped his homer into the second deck in right field, two aisles over from where the bird fell. He flipped his bat and stared into New York’s dugout as the ball soared into the seats for a 4-2 lead.
It’s unclear what the bird actually was, but it did cause a brief disturbance in right field, where many fans were trying to flee for cover from the rain.
McNeil, nicknamed the Flying Squirrel in college, has been at the center of a few animal-related incidents at Citi Field. He and Lindor squabbled in the dugout last year and suspiciously blamed it on a debate over a rodent after a comeback victory. McNeil also homered after meeting a puppy pregame in 2019, then convinced his wife to adopt the fuzzy canine.
As for that eagle?
“Just a coincidence, I guess,” he said.
Taijuan Walker (3-0) limited the Phillies to two runs in five innings, Luis Guillorme matched a career high with three hits and the NL East leaders improved to 31-17. They’ll try for a three-game sweep Sunday night in their final game against Philadelphia until Aug. 12.
Bryce Harper, Nick Castellanos and J.T. Realmuto had two hits each, but the Phillies stumbled with yet another defensive lowlight in the outfield and went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
The rain let up in the fifth, but the Mets didn’t. Guillorme led off with a bunt single, Starling Marte doubled, and both scored on Lindor’s triple. Lindor drove in another run with a single in the seventh and has 14 RBIs during his six-game run.
“He’s been swinging at a lot of pitches in the white part of the plate,” Showalter said.
Lindor’s triple was a long fly ball that skipped off the fence in left-center between Phillies outfielders Kyle Schwarber and Odubel Herrera. The pair collided on the warning track and bounced off the wall together, the latest misplay by Philadelphia’s maligned defenders.
“I think they both probably had an opportunity,” manager Joe Girardi said. “But I have to look at it closer.”
Alonso followed with a sacrifice fly, making him the first Mets player to accrue 29 RBIs in May. Alonso leads the majors with 46 RBIs in 48 games.
Dominic Smith’s sacrifice fly in the second made it 1-0 New York, but Philadelphia took the lead in the fourth. Realmuto’s bases-loaded line drive went just past a diving Guillorme at second base for a two-run single and a 2-1 advantage.
Eflin covered six innings but was charged with seven runs. He struck out four after punching out 12 Los Angeles Dodgers in his previous outing.
Phillies: Harper was hit in the foot by Rhys Hoskins’ foul ball while leading off third base in the third inning, but remained in the game.
Mets: RHP Jacob deGrom said his injured right shoulder blade feels “completely normal,” and he’s waiting for New York’s medical staff to clear him to resume throwing off a mound. … CF Brandon Nimmo had an MRI on his right wrist that came back clean, but was held out of the lineup. Showalter said he expected Nimmo might get an injection, but he doesn’t anticipate New York’s leadoff hitter will miss significant time. … RHP Yoan Lopez was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse, and OF Nick Plummer was called up.
Former Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler (3-3, 3.38) starts for the Phillies against New York RHP Chris Bassitt (4-2, 3.91) on Sunday night. Wheeler is 4-2 with a 2.58 ERA in nine starts against the Mets since signing a $118 million, five-year deal with Philadelphia prior to the 2020 season.