Ike got the start in Pittsburgh and Duda started his everyday role for the Mets
Ike Davis got on base three times Saturday night in his first game as a Pittsburgh Pirate, including a double. Lucas Duda, now the everyday player at first base for the New York Mets got a double in his first at bat at Citi Field Saturday night just moments after Davis got his double.
Coincidence as it pertained to the trade made Friday evening that sent Davis packing to Pittsburgh, and Duda did have his opportunity in the Mets 7-5 loss to the Atlanta Braves.
“He had some good at bats tonight,” said Mets manager Terry Collins. “We got some good at bats tonight.” The Mets staged a ninth inning rally that came up short. Duda was in the mix of a good at bat in the prior inning when he missed a go ahead home run that went to the wall in right field.
Before the game Duda said, “I am ready for the opportunity,” as he now takes over. And unless he fails at the plate, or gets a day off, first base and a post in the everyday lineup is his. He had been a center of attention when Davis was on the bench, and always provided the brief response about the logjam at first base.
Though, Duda could not be found for a comment after the Mets second straight loss to the early season and division leading Braves, despite a three-run and two-hit ninth inning.
What was more impressive was his bat in the ninth inning off the reliable Braves’ close Craig Kimbrel. With David Wright on third, and Chris Young the tying run on first, Duda went 0-2 on the count Young took second to move along the potential tying run.
Duda put Kimbrel to work and on a full count took a breaking ball that loaded the bases. It was that good at bat that impressed Collins. Kimbrel, after all is considered the best closer in the game now that Mariano River is no longer closing games in the Bronx.
The hope is Duda becomes the hitter that kept him in New York. There was always the hope that Ike Davis would return to form, and though there may be less pressure of Duda making an impression there is still the expectation for him to drive the ball to right and produce runs.
The Mets scored two runs in their first seven games at home, and according to the Elias Sports Bureau, that set a record. So, that adds more to the storyline of Lucas Duda making an impact for the Mets when it comes to driving in runs at Citi Field
When it comes to run production, the Mets also hope that Curtis Granderson can get rid of his struggles at the plate. One of three free agent acquisitions in the off-season, Granderson, coming off an injury plagued year with the Yankees, is hearing the, boos at Citi Field with his $60 millon dollar contract.
It is an early reminder of the constant boos that Jason Bay heard often, a free agent pickup the Mets once had who never produced or played to expectations.
Granderson had a 0-for-5 night, stranded six runners in base and is hitting .140 with four runs batted in. Collins had a chat with his cleanup hitter prior to the game and may be considering putting him somewhere else in the lineup.
“He might be pressing,” said Collins. The issue of moving Granderson out of the cleanup spot will be addressed Sunday, prior to the finale of the three-game series with Atlanta. Though, Granderson should be used to the pressure having been a part of expecting to produce on the other side of town in New York.
He said, “No, not at all,” about pressing. It has nothing to do with the huge contract, a bad start at the plate, or batting fourth.
“Stay focused, stay ready, stay aggressive and eventually things will turn,” he said.
And it goes beyond the problems with scoring runs. The Mets are still trying to figure how to deal with the problems of Jose Valverde who is in the closer role. He ended up giving up the decisive runs, a long three run homer to Justin Upton in the ninth inning.
It was the fourth home run that Valverde has surrendered in his last three calls to the mound. Collins, said, he will also address that issue, as far as if a change needs to be made out of the pen. Valverde can struggle, but when his location is where it is supposed to be, as everyone knows, he gets the job done.
“In the nitro zone,” is how Collins describes the home run balls Valverde has thrown. There are limited options as to who would close games or as was the case with the Upton at bat, keeping the game close.
Collins could go with his best relief pitcher out of the pen, Carlos Torres who has never closed a game in his limited time with the White Sox, Rockies and Mets. Gonzalez Germen or the veteran Kyle Farnsworth could be considered, as both were effective on the recently completed 6-3 road trip.
“I never done it,” said Torres when asked about the possibility of a new role out of the pen. “We are running into some bumps right now so we will see what happens.”
But, the Mets don’t want to see games like the one Saturday night become a nasty habit. Collins has some decisions, and with the Cardinals following the Braves to Citi Field, the worst part of this scenario is the Mets seeing Granderson and Valverde continue to crumble.
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