NEW YORK -- Mets manager Terry Collins was not willing to reveal who will start at first base for Wednesday night's National League Wild Card Game against Madison Bumgarner and the Giants (8 p.m. ET on ESPN). But some clues were presented as his team completed a workout on Tuesday
NEW YORK -- Mets manager Terry Collins was not willing to reveal who will start at first base for Wednesday night's National League Wild Card Game against Madison Bumgarner and the Giants (8 p.m. ET on ESPN). But some clues were presented as his team completed a workout on Tuesday afternoon at Citi Field.
James Loney stood as the early favorite and the odds of him being in the starting lineup for this elimination matchup increased as he got some extra work in at first base during Tuesday's batting practice. Kelly Johnson has made just two appearances at the position for New York and Opening Day first baseman Lucas Duda's questionable status seemed to become more doubtful as he was paired with other backups during his batting practice round.
"I have a good feeling about tomorrow," Loney said. "I think it's going to be good."
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As Loney provided some indication that he expects to get the start, he did not provide specific confirmation and acknowledged it's the club's decision. What went without saying is the fact when attempting to create optimal matchups against Bumgarner, it is never comforting to make a decision that essentially includes just three left-handed options -- Loney, Johnson and Duda
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Bumgarner has limited left-handed hitters to a .178 average this season and .206 over the course of his career. During the past eight appearances of his seemingly mythical postseason career, lefties have hit .149 (11-for-74) against him. Collins might have thought about using his only right-handed option -- Eric Campbell -- but it certainly wouldn't be prudent to enter a game of this magnitude with a first baseman who has hit .173 in 75 at-bats this year and .212 (7-for-33) against left-handers.
Duda missed nearly four months with a lower back stress fracture and went 5-for-23 with a pair of doubles after he returned to New York's lineup on a part-time basis on Sept. 18. The veteran slugger did go 3-for-5 with a double against left-handed pitchers. But this small sample size doesn't trump his .224 career average against lefties or the fact he isn't quite back to full strength.
After Duda was injured in May, the Mets acquired Loney from the Padres for cash considerations and then watched him hit .265 with nine homers and a .703 OPS over 100 games (88 starts at first base). The 32-year-old veteran hit just .173 (9-for-52) against left-handed pitchers. This was a problem the Mets could negate before Wilmer Flores, a right-handed platoon option, sustained a right wrist injury that has sidelined him since Sept. 10.
Collins will have some late-inning flexibility at multiple positions as he will carry a couple extra position players for Wednesday night's game. Because there is not necessarily room to plan for the future heading into a Wild Card Game, Collins said he plans to carry just nine pitchers, two of which will be starting pitchers -- Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo or Bartolo Colon -- who will provide insurance if there is need to go to a long reliever during the early portion of the game or in the event of extra innings.
"We certainly don't need a lot of pitching that you normally have with a 12-man staff," Collins said. "This gives you some offense off the bench or the option to make any pinch-running maneuvers you might want to make during the game."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.