Duda content to let his bat do the talking
NEW YORK -- Lucas Duda must come from the Teddy Roosevelt school of slugging.
Duda, fresh off an impressive power display in the Mets' 8-4 victory over San Diego on Wednesday night, preferred to shun the spotlight and to talk about his accomplishments in the scope of the team theme. Duda, who homered and doubled off a left-hander in the win, was asked five questions by the media on Wednesday night, and he answered them all in less than 150 words.
A few queries were deflected with a single sentence, and Duda even said that his homer -- which landed in the second deck of Citi Field's right-field porch -- was wind-aided. His teammates, though, were more than happy to step up and be effusive about the left fielder's night at the plate.
"I don't think that one was wind-aided. He didn't want to take credit for it," said first baseman Ike Davis, smiling at the very thought of Duda's reticence. "What amazing bat speed that guy has."
Duda, long considered an X-factor for the Mets, helped set the tone early on Wednesday. He drove a two-run shot off southpaw Clayton Richard in the second inning, and he came back to double and score in the fourth. And on this night, that was all the support starter Matt Harvey would need.
Harvey was incredible on Wednesday, pitching seven innings and facing one batter over the minimum. The right-hander walked two batters and gave up just one hit, but he kept San Diego honest by picking off a batter and coaxing a double play. Harvey, bolstered by offense, just couldn't be beat.
"Anytime they're pumping homers out of the ballpark, it's nice to see," said Harvey. "For me, I still have to stick with my approach and attack the glove and throw strikes. Whether it's 10-0 or 1-0, you still have to pitch. Things can turn quick in this game. I wanted to go out there and throw zeroes."
Duda, slotted sixth in the lineup, was asked directly Wednesday night if he needs to perform better against left-handed pitchers. The 27-year-old went into the game with just four home runs in 215 career at-bats against lefties compared to 25 homers in 573 at-bats against right-handers.
But true to form, Duda decided not to engage. He said he doesn't feel like he needs to prove he can hit lefties and that he has confidence that he can do it. His best moment in front of the microphones came moments later, when he was asked about the potential of the team's outfield.
"People are going to have their opinions and are going to say what they're going to say," said Duda, acknowledging the hyperactive local media market. "But I think that if you talk to all five outfielders, we show up pretty good out there. We're just going to play hard every day."
Nobody can question Duda's effort, but his consistency was an issue last year. Duda, a former seventh-round draftee, batted .249 with 12 home runs before the All-Star Game in 2012, but his offense withered away to a .214 mark with just three homers in 38 games after the break.
And he was hardly alone. The Mets batted .259 with 73 homers before the All-Star break and fell off to a .238 mark with 66 homers after the intermission. Davis surged after the break to reassure the Mets that he can be a difference-maker, but Duda's second half brought more questions than answers.
"That's the thing we talked about in Spring Training: The importance of making sure that Lucas has the kind of year that he's capable of having," said manager Terry Collins. "Ike's shown us that he's going to hit 30 homers. If Lucas is in that same bracket, this is a different team."
Indeed, if Duda is hitting, the middle of New York's batting order looks very different. David Wright is in the third slot, with Davis hitting cleanup behind him. Veteran Marlon Byrd batted fifth on Wednesday night and Duda slotted in sixth, and that foursome went 5-for-13 with six runs scored.
"If Duda locks down his spot, it's a game-changer," said Davis, lending perspective on a night when Duda's bat did the talking. "It would be like having three four-hole hitters in the game. He's got potential to hit over 30 home runs and to hit for a high average. He, honestly, can be a superstar."
That part remains to be seen, but Duda's game gave the Mets something to build upon. He didn't just pull a homer into the second deck, he also pulled a double and kept a rally alive with a walk in the fifth inning. Duda, to his credit, knew that it was just one night. But the Mets want to see more.
"Both Duda and Ike off a lefty is huge," said Collins. "If those two guys are swinging the bats like they can and driving in runs by hitting the ball in the seats, it's going to be a tough lineup to get through. There's going to be no breaks, because John Buck can do it. We know Marlon can do it."