Duda back to doing damage in fastball counts
NEW YORK -- The message to Lucas Duda generally stays, more or less, the same. It doesn't matter if it's Keith Hernandez saying it outside a batting cage in Port St. Lucie, Fla., in February, or if it's hitting coach Kevin Long saying it inside the bowels of Citi Field in July, trying to wrestle Duda out of a rough slump. The main idea: Be aggressive in fastball counts so you don't chase bad breaking balls.
When Duda listens, he can be as potent as any left-handed bat around. He is starting to hear it again, in the crack of his once-dormant bat, as he showed in New York's 4-2 win over Arizona on Saturday.
Duda laced a Patrick Corbin fastball for a fifth-inning solo home run. It was the second time in two games Duda got ahead in the count and crushed a fastball over the fence. On Friday, it was a rocket off the center-field apple off D-backs starter Chase Anderson.
On Saturday, Duda took the lefty Corbin out to left-center field. Both drives and their locations proved positive signs for a hitter with a tendency to fall into pull-happy slumps. That can open the door for dreadful months, like Duda's .187, one-homer June.
"When he stays middle of the field, he's real dangerous," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "That's what he should do. That's what he should be. This guy has power to all fields. There is no park in either league that should hold this guy."
Collins called Duda a "workin' fool," and Duda admitted that the more he struggled, the more he channeled his frustration into his preparation. But when it comes to his results, he doesn't care whether the hits go. Not at this point.
"To be honest with you, I'm just happy to hit the ball right now," Duda said. "I'll take whatever I can get.
"As of late, I'm obviously not contributing and not doing what I'm capable of. I'm well aware of that."
If this weekend is any indication, that could be about to change.