Beltran hitting his stride at just the right time
NEW YORK -- There was no added strut in Carlos Beltran's step as he rounded the bases to a mixed reception on Saturday at Citi Field, at least none that the current Yankee and former Met would admit to. He has been booed in his former workplaces and some of his present ones, a reception that doesn't inspire much of a rise from the veteran.
What does excite Beltran at this stage, playing at age 38 and trying not to think about it, is how fresh his body feels for the September surge. Beltran's three-run, first-inning homer helped lift the Yankees to a 5-0 victory over the Mets, offering a spike of adrenaline at a time when every win is crucial.
"We feel like we have played consistent baseball since Day One," Beltran said. "We are in the hunt to play in October. It's a great feeling that I'm also capable of being able to turn the season around after a tough April. That's baseball. You have to come with the mentality every day to try to do something positive for the team."
Most of Beltran's first year in pinstripes was hindered by injury, and the first month of season No. 2 took on the same tone. Having identified a flaw in his swing, Beltran has turned it up as of late; he has hit safely in 37 of 42 games, batting .315 (47-for-149) with eight homers and 23 RBIs over that span.
"You take a minute and check out the back of his baseball card," said Brian McCann, who later added a two-run homer in the win. "He's done things -- and is doing things -- that you don't count guys like that out.
"He got off to a little bit of a slow start, but he's going to be there [at the end of the season]. His numbers are going to be there at the end, and he's one of the best postseason players ever to play the game. He continues to put up great at-bats."
Beltran said that using his lower half more has helped him at the plate. In the first inning, Noah Syndergaard was ahead of the veteran with an 0-2 count and tried to buzz a 100-mph fastball by Beltran, who got the bat head out and launched a rocket into the second deck in right field -- his 16th homer of the year, and No. 389 lifetime.
"Hitting is adjustments, man," Beltran said. "The first month, I wasn't really basically using my lower body. Until I was able to figure [that out], looking at a lot of videos, looking at a lot of clips from previous years .... I was able to make the adjustment."
Mets fans maintain an odd relationship with Beltran, who was one of the most productive outfielders in club history but also looked at a called third strike from the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright to end the 2006 National League Championship Series, for which he will never be completely forgiven.
Beltran shrugs when he hears the jeers about '06, which is largely the same reaction he gave in April when scouts opined that his bat looked too slow to keep up with high-octane pitching.
"That's part of baseball," Beltran said. "As a player, you have to understand that you're going to have one or two months in a year where you're going to hit .220. And nobody can say that's not going to happen to you. That's going to happen to everyone. That happened to me in the first month of the year.
"Being the first month, everybody is paying attention, everybody is expecting you to do well. I'm expecting myself to do well. It didn't happen that way, but at the end of the day, I feel like I have been able to fight every day. I'm just in a position where I have a chance to help this team accomplish something positive."