NEW YORK — Jeff McNeil, held out of the New York Mets’ regular-season finale Wednesday against Washington, officially won the National League batting title after the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman came up short in his bid to overtake McNeil on the last day of the season.
Mets manager Buck Showalter said it was his decision to sit McNeil as New York prepped for a wild-card playoff series versus the San Diego Padres that begins Friday night.
“Wouldn’t put that on him,” Showalter said. “The most important thing is Friday. Everything else takes second.”
McNeil finishes with a .326 average — one point ahead of Freeman — after playing both ends of a doubleheader Tuesday and going 3-for-8 with a home run and a walk against the Nationals.
New York was eliminated from the NL East race during the second game when first-place Atlanta beat Miami. But even after Showalter pulled most of his regulars with a large lead, McNeil remained in the game and flied out twice in rainy conditions.
Needing to go 4-for-4 on Wednesday against the Colorado Rockies in order to catch McNeil, Freeman doubled and homered in his first two at-bats, but a flyout to the warning track in center field in the fifth ended his hopes.
Freeman hit .325 for the season and finishes with 199 base hits and 100 RBIs. Freeman’s 393-foot drive to left tied the game 1-all with two outs in the third. He singled in a run in the seventh.
Los Angeles had already clinched the NL West title and home-field advantage through the World Series. The Dodgers beat the Rockies 6-1 for their 111th victory, becoming the National League’s winningest team in more than a century.
McNeil becomes the first Mets player to lead the majors in hitting. Minnesota’s Luis Arraez won the AL batting crown with a .316 average, making it first-time batting champions in both leagues.
Jose Reyes is the only previous Mets player in franchise history to win an NL batting crown, when he hit .337 in 2011.
Reyes drew criticism that year when he opened the season finale with a bunt single, then left the game to protect his lead.
Hall of Fame slugger Ted Williams famously played both games of a doubleheader on the last day of the 1941 campaign when sitting out would have secured a .400 batting average. Williams went 6-for-8 to finish at .406, making him the last major leaguer to hit .400.
But players sitting out on the final day of a season to preserve individual statistics or achievements is hardly unheard of — especially when resting for the playoffs.
McNeil is riding a 10-game hitting streak and is batting .465 (20-for-43) with eight multi-hit games since Sept. 23.
He was hitting .287 entering play July 30, leaving him far behind Freeman (.319) and St. Louis Cardinals slugger Paul Goldschmidt (.334). But the 30-year-old McNeil, a two-time All-Star, has batted .378 since to Freeman’s .327 and Goldschmidt’s .288.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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