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Jeff McNeil's quest to win batting title could be interrupted due to hamstring injury

ATLANTA — Jeff McNeil is hoping his MRI on Wednesday will provide positive news, but his tone Tuesday night told the story.

McNeil’s left hamstring flared up while running out a groundout in the ninth inning of the 5-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park, and the New York Mets rookie grabbed at his hamstring after crossing the bag. Team doctors evaluated him after the game, and McNeil, hitting .332, did not seem overly optimistic that he’ll avoid the injured list.

“Doesn’t feel great. I don’t think it’s too terrible. We have no timeline,” McNeil said. “See how it feels in the morning.”

McNeil described the injury as a “little snag” and is hoping that perhaps it is just a cramp, but the vibes he and manager Mickey Callaway gave off after the game did not make it seem as if this injury will be of the day-to-day variety. McNeil already landed on the injured list in May with tightness in that same hamstring.

The infielder/outfielder could not compare the two hamstring issues.

“Felt a little snag. Hopefully it’s not bad,” said McNeil, who went 1 for 5 with an RBI single. “Maybe just a cramp I felt. We’ll see.”

Losing McNeil would be a devastating break for a Mets team that is now two games back in the NL wild card race at 61-58 due to a 15-3 run.

McNeil is the team’s leadoff hitter, and in the hunt for the NL batting title with this .332 average. Without McNeil, the Mets would have to give more at-bats to light-hitting outfielder Juan Lagares or Aaron Altherr, who has four hits this season.

Aug 13, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; New York Mets left fielder Jeff McNeil (6) reacts against the Atlanta Braves in the ninth inning at SunTrust Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

“It sucks. Team’s playing well,” McNeil said. “I just want to contribute. Hopefully this is something short and I can get back on the field.”

The Mets have also just started a grueling stretch that will feature 31 of 34 games against teams that are in the hunt for playoff spots.

McNeil’s absence would force the team to find a new leadoff hitter, and the Mets could perhaps try shortstop Amed Rosario.

This injury could be a costly one for a team that believes it’s now a contender.

“It’s tough. He’s a huge part of this team. He brings fire every day to the field,” said Tuesday’s losing pitcher, Zack Wheeler. “He’s a ball player and you need those type of guys on the team and in the lineup. It’s unfortunate that happened. Hopefully it’s not too serious and he can get back quick. We need his bat, for sure.”

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