den Dekker lifts Mets, states case for '15
Outfielder drives in go-ahead run; Granderson posts three RBIs
WASHINGTON -- More than any other position on the diamond, the Mets are likely to upgrade left field over the winter. Receiving precious little corner-outfield production this season, the Mets understand they must find a reliable, proven everyday solution in left.
That puts the future of spare parts such as Matt den Dekker and Kirk Nieuwenhuis in flux. Nieuwenhuis has already stated his case for a 2015 roster spot with a strong season amidst difficult circumstances, shuttling often between Triple-A Las Vegas and the Majors. So den Dekker went about championing his own cause on Thursday in the Mets' 7-4 win over the Nationals, during Game 1 of a day-night doubleheader.
"That's what everybody here is trying to do," den Dekker said. "In baseball, there's a lot of unknown. I'm just trying to play hard and get better, and I feel like I've done that the last month."
Stuck in a tie game in the eighth at Nationals Park, the Mets received a spark when Eric Young Jr. stole second base with den Dekker at the plate and two outs. He responded by punching a single into left field, giving the Mets a one-run lead and taking second on the throw home.
When the next batter, Wilmer Flores, hit a ground ball to third base, den Dekker never slowed. He rounded third as Kevin Frandsen fielded the ball and fired late to first base, allowing Flores to reach with an infield hit. That gave den Dekker enough time to score easily on the play, without even drawing a throw.
"I was running hard the whole time," den Dekker said. "I just kept wheeling around, and [Flores] was safe at first. It worked out."
Batting leadoff, den Dekker finished 2-for-4 with a walk, two runs scored and an RBI.
Mets pitcher Dillon Gee's strong start to the game faded in the fourth, when he allowed Washington's first run to score on a sacrifice fly. An inning later, three more scored, thanks in part to the Mets' first balk of the season in their 158th game. After Nate Schierholtz singled home a run to put two men on base with one out, Gee balked, moving the runners into scoring position. Michael Taylor then singled home both runners to tie the game at 4.
Gee completed that inning to finish his season, going 7-8 with a 4.00 ERA.
"Just looking back right now, the word that comes to mind is just 'frustrating,'" Gee said. "I was just very inconsistent. With the injury and everything that I went through, this whole year kind of leaves a sour taste in my mouth."
The Mets staked Gee to an early lead on Curtis Granderson's first-inning RBI single off Blake Treinen, who gave the Nationals 4 1/3 innings of four-run ball in his spot start. Two of those runs were inherited, coming on Granderson's two-run single against Xavier Cedeno, after Treinen left the game in the fifth.
The Mets added one more run in the ninth, when Ruben Tejada singled to right field off right-hander Ryan Mattheus, scoring Granderson.
It resulted in another banner game for Granderson, who's three-hit, three-RBI effort -- "it was fun," he said -- played a major role in New York's victory. Yet Granderson's strong September will not affect much heading into the winter; he was going to be a part of the corner-outfield conversation no matter what.
What's unclear is who will join him and Juan Lagares in the Opening Day outfield. Should the Mets invest in a free agent to man left field every day, there will be little reason for them to carry Nieuwenhuis and den Dekker -- both left-handed swingers -- on the Opening Day roster. And Nieuwenhuis, who is out of Minor League options, holds an inherent advantage.
All den Dekker can do is continue producing as best he can in an attempt to prove his worth. Now featuring a shortened swing that has cut down on both his power and strikeout totals, den Dekker feels he has developed into a more consistent, complete player.
"I think I've just had more consistent at-bats throughout the year," den Dekker said. "It feels a lot better. I'm seeing the ball a lot better than I have in the past. I feel confident when I go up there, and that's a big thing for me."