First baseman Lucas Duda typically provides the New York Mets with all of the strikeouts of a power hitter but without the home runs. Wednesday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves was no different.
The Mets entered the ninth inning trailing by four runs. Ervin Santana had dominated for eight innings, allowing just three hits without surrendering a walk or a run. Still, the Amazin’s had life after an Eric Young Jr. walk and a David Wright single.
Fredi Gonzalez countered the Mets’ late-game offensive outburst with Craig Kimbrel, but Curtis Granderson kept the rallying going with a walk. Duda stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and one out. A simple single would have gotten the Mets on the board and the tying run on base.
On his first pitch, Kimbrel hung a slider just below the letters. It was a mistake, a pitch I’m sure Kimbrel immediately wanted back as soon as it left his hand. Duda took it for strike one. With a 0-1 count, Kimbrel doubled up on the slider. This one was sharper but still up in the zone, uncharacteristically hittable from an All-Star like Kimbrel. Duda fouled it off.
With a 0-2 count, Kimbrel didn’t mess around with another secondary pitch. Rather, he reached back and fired a 97 mph fastball past Duda’s hopeless, Swiss cheese block of a bat. Duda was totally overmatched. The Mets managed to put up three runs in the ninth, but their comeback fell short.
I’m not pinning the loss on Duda by any stretch of the imagination, especially considering the pitchers he faced. Santana gave the entire lineup fits, and Kimbrel is one of the best closers in baseball, consistently among the league leaders in strikeout rate.
Still, in the most crucial point of the game, Duda had a miserable at-bat. He missed the two most hittable pitches he saw and was totally helpless against Kimbrel’s heat. That result is totally unacceptable from someone who is supposed to drive in runs and supply some power in the middle of the order.
After Duda grabbed some bench, the light-hitting Juan Lagares and Travis d’Arnaud both delivered RBI singles for the Mets, but it wasn’t enough. Last year, Ike Davis played himself out of the starting job at first base. It seems like Duda’s doing everything in his power to give it back.