The New York Mets are not going to make the playoffs in 2013. Their ace, Matt Harvey, is out for the season and half of their starting lineup has spent most of this year in the minors. Yet they still have something to play for.
Besides pride, Lucas Duda is playing for the starting job at first base in 2014. The incumbent, Ike Davis, had a horrible year that was shortened due to injury. As a result, Duda has essentially had a month long try out to show manager Terry Collins that he deserves to start over Davis next year – but he is not taking advantage.
The Mets beat the Miami Marlins 1-0 on Sunday in 12 innings, and Duda scored the game winning run. But he was 0-for-4 on the day and had some horrible at bats.
In his first plate appearance, he was ahead in the count 2-0 when Miami pitcher, Tom Koehler, threw him a hanging change-up over the heart of the plate. It was a pitch begging to be hit out onto the Pepsi Porch beyond the right field wall, but Duda took it for strike one. Koehler next threw him a fastball inside, and Duda took it for strike two. With a 2-2 count, Koehler bounced a slider a foot in front of home plate. Duda tried to check his swing, but he went around for strike three.
In an at bat that he was ahead in the count 2-0, Duda struck out without ever taking a full swing. Yes, guys strike out, it happens, but he took the two most hittable pitches of the at bat for strikes and swung at one not even Vladamir Guerrero could hit.
His second at bat wasn’t much better. Koehler’s first pitch was a change-up down and away – swing and a miss, strike one. The second pitch was a fastball up and in under Duda’s fists – swing and a miss, strike two. The third pitch was another fastball inside that jammed Duda and he popped out to center field. It was a three pitch out where the barrel of Duda’s bat didn’t even come close to the ball.
Duda went on to pop out and ground out to shortstop in his next two at bats before drawing a walk in the bottom of the 12th. True, he scored the game winning run but it was a pathetic offensive performance from a guy who is supposed to supply some left-handed power to the lineup.
Next year, the Mets will need Duda to protect David Wright in the batting order. Collins has said he wants to see Duda hit the ball out of the park, but he is never going to fulfill these expectations if he continues to take the pitches he should hammer and swing at ones he cannot handle.
To Koehler’s credit, he pitched a great game and shut down the entire New York lineup. Nevertheless, the Mets would not have needed 12 innings to win if Duda had made Koehler pay for his early mistakes.
Duda has first base locked up for the rest of the year, but unless he starts showing some real offensive production, come 2014, he’s going to be back in triple A, Las Vegas.