August 11, 2022

PHILADELPHIA — Brandon Nimmo wasn’t around for Opening Day, neck stiffness forcing Buck Showalter to be careful with the outfielder. Nimmo tried to talk his way into the lineup, but to no avail.

In the five games since, Nimmo has shown why his bat was worth waiting for.

Nimmo has recorded a pair of hits in three of the contests, but his biggest hit arrived Tuesday in the Mets’ 2-0 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, in which the first and largest run of the game leapt off Nimmo’s bat.

In the fifth inning of a scoreless game, on a 2-1 count against a tiring Zack Wheeler — who was making his first start of the season, and his upper-90s heat had dropped a few ticks — Nimmo jumped on a down-the-middle changeup and deposited it over the right-field wall for his first dinger of the season. The Mets would add an insurance run late, but Nimmo’s run would be the only one they needed.

Brandon Nimmo belts the game-winning homer in the Mets’ 2-0 win over the Phillies.

Nimmo and Wheeler are good pals, part of a friendship that goes all the way back to Rookie Ball. They’re both now standouts on opposing teams, and while the swing was “really special” for the Mets outfielder, it was because of the quality of the pitcher rather than the identity.

“He’s been a thorn in our side ever since he left and he’s such a great pitcher,” Nimmo said of Wheeler, who gave up just the run and two hits in 4 ²/₃ innings, the blast representing his final pitch. “You want to compete against the best, and you want to do well against the best, and he is one of the best.”

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Nimmo has been a thorn in Wheeler’s side, too, now 8-for-28 (.286) with the homer and two doubles off his former teammate, who left for Philadelphia following the 2019 season.

The Mets are six games into their season, but Nimmo is making a case he is the best hitter on the club. The leadoff hitter went 1-for-3 with a walk, keeping his batting average at .333.

He is a rare piece who does some of everything, including playing an excellent center field, and the only drawback to his game is the injury bug that creeps up. His neck is feeling better, and with each long ball he adds to the ledger, he will boost a potential contract that should come after the season, when Nimmo can be a free agent.

But that’s a long way off. For now, the Mets and Nimmo are enjoying each at-bat of Nimmo’s, even against one of the league’s best.

“Nimmo put a good swing on it,” Showalter said.