WASHINGTON - The Mets have struggled to scrounge up production from the bench. They entered play against the Nationals Wednesday night hitting .181 in pinch-hitting situations, which ranked 10th in the National League.
But recently promoted outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis has shown some signs of feeling comfortable in the role.
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Nieuwenhuis delivered a pinch-hit RBI single on Tuesday night, upping his average to .375 (6-for-16) as a pinch-hitter this season. Only Eric Campbell (seven) has more pinch hits on the Mets.
"Two years ago, I had no idea how to pinch hit," he said. "I had never done it before in the minor leagues."
Still, Nieuwenhuis has enjoyed solid results, albeit in a limited sample. He's a career .357 (15-for-42) hitter off the bench.
Experience has taught him not to dwell on each pinch-hit at-bat.
"You'd go back, look at the tape, and beat myself up over it if I took a bad swing at a good pitch to hit or something like that," Nieuwenhuis said. "You tend to overanalyze it a little bit. I've learned to let just let it go, especially pinch hitting."
Daisuke Matsuzaka (right elbow inflammation) threw off flat ground at the team's complex Wednesday. The righthander has been on the disabled list since July 26. But he appears to be moving closer to making a minor-league rehab appearance.
"He's got to get on a mound and start spinning it," manager Terry Collins said. "But I wouldn't be surprised if he's out pitching next week." Extra bases
Curtis Granderson snapped an 0-for-18 skid by bunting for a single in the sixth inning . . . Before the game, the Mets made their annual visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.