Josh Hamilton can’t hack it in first game in weeks

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Making his first appearance since Sept. 16 — and just his second since Sept. 4 — Josh Hamilton, returning from shoulder, chest and rib cage injuries, went 0-for-5 in Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Royals, four times getting retired by left-handed pitchers. He popped up to third base to end the game in the 11th.

In both the seventh and ninth innings, the Angels worked to set things up for Hamilton; the leadoff man got on and Erick Aybar bunted him over both times, even though there was a left-handed pitcher on the mound. In the seventh, Hamilton hit a routine grounder off rookie Brandon Finnegan. In the ninth, he struck out in a poor at-bat versus Tim Collins.

Manager Mike Scioscia was due to face questions afterwards whether starting Hamilton was the right call. This was actually a pretty good matchup for Hamilton, though; not only did he hit .330 in 91 at-bats against lefties during the regular season, but he had three career homers in 27 at-bats against Royals starter Jason Vargas (albeit with a .222 average). If Hamilton was going to play during the series, then there was no reason not to use him tonight.

Tonight was the lesser question, though. The bigger one is whether Hamilton should be playing at all. We’ll get a better read on that Friday when he faces flamethrowing Yordano Ventura. If Hamilton is overmatched, the Angels should strongly consider trying something different in left field in Game 3, which would probably mean playing Efren Navarro.

Pete Alonso sets new NL rookie record with 40th home run

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With a ninth-inning solo home run off of Royals pitcher Jacob Barnes on Sunday, Mets first baseman Pete Alonso set a new National League rookie record for home runs in a single season. He now has 40 with 36 games left in the regular season.

Cody Bellinger, currently the home run leader with 42, hit 39 home runs in his rookie season in 2017, holding the record until today. The major league record is 52, set by the Yankees’ Aaron Judge also in 2017. Judge had broken Mark McGwire’s record of 49 hit in 1987.

Alonso went 3-for-4 with a walk, an RBI double, and three runs scored along with the homer. He’s now batting .271 with a .979 OPS with 40 homers and 95 RBI on the season.

With their 11-5 win over the Royals, the Mets improved to 64-60. They have the same exact record as the Phillies and Brewers, sitting 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card.