(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson rejuvenated the Mets’ moribund lineup this past lineup by adding Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson and calling up Michael Conforto, and Lucas Duda is set to be the biggest beneficiary. He proved that with his three-homer performance on Wednesday night.
Duda has had a tough time this year, mainly because he had no protection in the middle of the lineup. Most of the season, he shared the middle of the order with Michael Cuddyer, who is no longer a power threat, Wilmer Flores, and Ruben Tejada.
Last Thursday, a day that could be looked at as a turning point in the season, Duda was in the sixth spot behind two guys well under .200, John Mayberry, Jr. and Eric Campbell. The lineup the Mets put out that night was a disgrace and changes needed to be made immediately.
The fact that Alderson made the moves he did the next day set the tone for everyone from the fans to the players to the rest of the league that this team is a contender and they will actually make a run this year. The Mets have been the biggest player at the deadline. They beat out teams like the Nationals and Yankees for star reliever Tyler Clippard. When was the last time the Mets beat out other teams for a player? When Omar Minaya was the Generl Manager?
Duda has found his power since Uribe and Johnson joined the lineup on Saturday, and Conforto on Friday. He hit a couple homers in the 15-run explosion Saturday against the Dodgers, followed by a two-run shot on Tuesday and the three solo shots on Wednesday against the Padres. The six homers in four games comes after Duda had just 12 through the first 97 games of the season.
If the Mets are going to stay in this race until the end, they need Duda to be one of the fiercest power hitters in the National League.
Mets Manager Terry Collins has been a big believer in Duda all season, and has said for weeks that he thinks Duda can break out at any minute.
On Wednesday afternoon, Collins said on whether he thinks Duda has turned a corner, “I do, and it’s not just the home runs, he hit three balls right on the button last night, so I think his swings are better. As I said last week, I still think at the end of the year, he’s gonna put up very, very good numbers. Are they going to be 30 homers? I hope so because that means he’s going to have a tremendous couple of months, but I still think, in the middle of our order, he’s dangerous. With the additions we’ve put in the lineup, and some of the protection hitting behind him now, he’ll get some balls to hit.”
Collins said of the rejuvenated lineup, “We added two what I call ‘professional hitters.’ You add Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe, they’re big league hitters and, therefore, all of a sudden, gives you some depth on your bench. Those two guys, you can play one, have one over there on the side waiting for any major occasion like we did the other day.
“I think our young guys are still the future. We’ve asked them to pick up a huge load here. We sit where we are today due to the fact that those young kids, you know I had Wilmer Flores hitting third and fourth in our lineup for a long time, and he did it absolutely the best he could, being asked to do that task, which is a big task in a major-league lineup. Now, we’ve got someone who’s done it before, so hopefully the heat’s off a little bit and we can put those guys in positions where they belong, and still hope to develop some of these young guys into the future here, because I still think Wilmer Flores sky’s the limit offensively for him. We’re going to try to get him at-bats here and there best we can, you know, Juan same thing, but right now, with 62 to go, it’s crunch time, so we’re going to put out the best team each and every night out there we think has the best chance to win,” said Collins.
Collins elaborated on the effect of having Uribe and Johnson here, “I think it’s gonna be huge for us. I think Sandy did a tremendous job picking up these two guys. One guy would have been big, but two guys, it’s just, you can see their presence in the dugout, you can see a little more relaxed order. We’ve been able to spread out our lineup a little differently by putting more of their bats in the middle of the lineup, so yeah it’s made things a lot easier so far. And here we’re looking hopefully at the end of the week to getting Travis d’Arnaud back, that’s another nice addition. David’s (Wright) making strides so all of a sudden, some things are coming together here. What we’ve gotta do is make sure our pitching continues to be as strong as it has been.”