Since he had the night off Wednesday, Triple-A Syracuse's René Rivera returned to the hotel with as many hits as his teammates. But the veteran catcher understands a lot can happen over the course of a 140-game season.For example, the night after Durham no-hit the Mets, Rivera teed off on
Since he had the night off Wednesday, Triple-A Syracuse's René Rivera returned to the hotel with as many hits as his teammates. But the veteran catcher understands a lot can happen over the course of a 140-game season.
For example, the night after Durham no-hit the Mets, Rivera teed off on his second three-homer game of the season. And Drew Gagnon took a perfect-game bid into the eighth inning en route to Syracuse's 17-0 triumph at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Rivers went deep against right-hander Sam McWilliams in the first inning, crushing a 1-1 pitch to left field and plating Rubén Tejada and Dilson Herrera. The 36-year-old struck again in the fourth, leading off the frame with a first-pitch shot to right-center off southpaw Ryan Merritt. And he capped his five-RBI night with a monstrous blast to left, one of two big flies surrendered by righty Rocky Gale in the ninth.
"I tried to be ready for the game," Rivera said. "Do my job in the cage, know what the pitcher's got. I just try to square the ball up. I think in this game, you hit the ball hard, anything can happen."
Gameday box score
That is the mind-set that has helped the Puerto Rico native amass a career-high 22 homers, double the previous career high he set in 103 games with the Padres in 2014. Rivera had never hit three in a game at any point in his 18-year career, coming into the season. Now he's done it twice this year. He also launched three homers against Buffalo. on June 30.
In an era in which most try to hit the ball in the air, Rivera just wants to hit the ball and hit it hard. An emphasis in his offseason training the past few years has been to make contact with a stronger swing. In 33 big league games last year, his 43 percent hard-hit rate was a career high.
"I know the ball is going to go," he said, "so I just want to have good contact."
Rivera has struck out in about a quarter of his plate appearances, but the journeyman's .817 OPS in 84 games this year is, by far, his best at any stop that has lasted this long. He hopes it'll turn into a chance to help out the Major League team when rosters expand.
"Being able to do what I've been doing here in Triple-A, it shows people," Rivera said. "It shows myself that I can keep playing. I've got a lot of more years to come. I can play in the big leagues…We'll see what happens in the last month and we'll see what happens in the future."
Gagnon retired the first 21 Bulls he faced before losing his bid for a perfect game and a no-hitter on a sharp line drive by Mac James that bounced off shortstop Rubén Tejada's glove to lead off the eighth.
"I think you never put pressure on yourself when you get a no-no," Rivera said. "You gotta tip your hat."
The Mets amassed 23 hits on the night, six of which left the yard. Grégor Blanco added two roundtrippers and Arismendy Alcantara crushed his 10th of the year.
"We came with the mentality to swing at strikes and have good at-bats and we'll see what happens," Rivera said.
Joe Bloss is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @jtbloss.