Mets’ Jeff McNeil continues hot hitting, shines on defense

Jeff McNeil didn’t hesitate when given the choice of which aspect of his play he wanted to talk about first.

“Let’s talk about the defense,” he joked. “I never get to talk about it.”

McNeil continued his hot hitting with three RBIs, but he also made two excellent defensive plays to help the Mets to a 7-6 win in 10 innings Thursday over the Cardinals.

He made a leaping grab in foul territory and doubled up Tommy Edman at second base for the final out of the seventh inning, and added a charging/sliding catch one inning later.

“I thought the first one was 10 rows foul, and then it tends to come back into play. So I was ready to climb up on the wall and go get it out of the stands and it just happened to fall back into fair territory,’ McNeil said. “I played a lot of outfield in college [at Long Beach State] and got tons of reps out there and tons of reps in the minor leagues.

“To me, it’s they hit the ball in the air and you go catch it. Not too difficult, just go out there and try to make some cool plays.”

Jeff McNeil makes a leaping catch on a sacrifice fly by Cardinals designated hitter Paul Goldschmidt during the seventh inning.

Asked about McNeil’s two-way play, Buck Showalter smiled and said, “How about the game he had?”

“I mean, he’s the Flying Squirrel for a reason. He’s making unbelievable plays, not just at second base, but in left field, too. He’s doing an unbelievable job for us offensively and defensively,” Pete Alonso said. “There’s a lot of things in the game now that are super-specialized, but he’s just a ballplayer … a really great ballplayer.”

Starling Marte arrived during the game following a bereavement leave after the death of his grandmother. He is expected to be activated Friday in Colorado, according to Showalter, who added, “Between air travel and customs and also the state of mind that we’re assuming he’s in, trying to give him that space.”

The Mets all wore T-shirts after the game honoring Eduardo Escobar for reaching 10 years of major league service time. Showalter said Max Scherzer led the presentation to Escobar.

There were no batters hit by pitches by either team, as both sides were warned after Mark Canha was drilled in Wednesday’s game, one of three Mets to be plunked in the game.

“I’ll never understand why we got warned [Wednesday] night. Is something wrong? Why do we get warned?” Showalter said before the game. “It’d be like a car cuts you off, but we’re gonna warn both of you, because you’re probably mad.”

Showalter then spun off into a rant about the New York traffic, saying it took him an hour and 20 minutes to get to the ballpark. He also joked that he changed the voice on his Waze navigation app, saying the male British voice giving directions “is very smug.” He also said his daughter uses Cookie Monster’s voice in her car for his grandson.

“You can’t get mad at Cookie Monster,” Showalter said.