WASHINGTON — Dominic Smith had one thought when he got the green light with a 3-0 count while pinch-hitting in the ninth inning Tuesday night.
“I wanted to let it eat,” Smith said.
A 435-foot home run would suffice his appetite.
A week ago, Smith had arrived in Louisville and played his first game with Triple-A Syracuse after being optioned as the casualty of the Mets’ roster crunch. Tuesday, he was coming off the big -eague bench again and putting the finishing touches on the Mets’ 6-2 win over the Nationals.
Smith’s first home run of the season bumped his batting average to .344 in limited playing time while improving to 4-for-13 (.308) as a pinch-hitter.
“He’s embraced [his role],” manager Mickey Callaway said. “He understands the opportunity. He understands that, at points, it can be limited. He’s gone out there every day and embraced his role and is prepared. He’s trying to put us in a position where we can’t send him down. That’s what you want out of every player, is to embrace what they’re given and do the best with their opportunities, and Dom Smith’s doing that.”
Smith later admitted it was a “shock” and an emotional day when he was sent down on May 3, a move made largely to keep Adeiny Hechavarria from opting out of his contract and calling him up to be the backup shortstop. Rookie Pete Alonso had earned full-time duties at first base, but Smith was more than holding his own off the bench.
After just two days with Syracuse, though, Smith got the call back to the Mets when Steven Matz went on the injured list Thursday.
More roster moves could be looming in the coming days. Matz and Jason Vargas could return to the rotation as soon as this weekend, and the Mets’ six-man bench could be trimmed. In the meantime, Smith — the only left-handed bat off the bench — served up another reminder of his value to the 25-man roster.
“I feel like every player’s different, so every player develops differently,” said Smith, who hit .210 in 105 games before this season. “Some guys come up to the big leagues and perform right off the bat. Some guys, it just takes a little bit longer to develop, learn the game, etc.
“But I just feel like I put in a ton of work tirelessly this offseason. I always continued to work through everything I went through in my career so far. I just feel like a lot of the hard work I’ve been putting in is starting to pay off.”