Despite their lofty standing, the Mets have been all-pitch and no-hit for much of the season, scoring three or fewer runs in 23 of their 42 games. But while starter Jacob deGrom was utterly dominant with eight one-hit innings in a 5-0 win over the Cardinals Thursday, the middle of the Mets' batting order showed signs of a spring thaw.
Most prominent was No. 3 hitter Lucas Duda, who clubbed two home runs and drove in four runs against the lefthanded pitching that has been his undoing in previous seasons. But cleanup hitter Michael Cuddyer also broke out with three hits, and No. 5 man Daniel Murphy also had two hits.
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"It's a great sign," manager Terry Collins said. "The middle of our order . . . if they start hitting like we think they can, it's going to be fun."
The most surprising numbers have been produced by Duda, who batted .180 (20-for-111) against lefties last season with four extra-base hits (two home runs). But he convinced Collins in the spring that he could hit lefthanders if given the chance on a regular basis and so far has backed it up with a .409 average (18-for-44) and six extra-base hits, including four home runs. Both homers on Thursday came against Cardinals lefties Jaime Garcia and Randy Choate.
"I'll give most of the credit to Lucas Duda," said Collins, who mentioned that Duda worked in the spring with broadcaster Keith Hernandez, a fellow lefthanded hitter in his playing days who handled lefties well. "He is the one who has said, 'I can hit lefties, I always have hit lefties.' "
Duda confirmed the conversation with Collins in the spring. "Yeah, I have confidence in myself," Duda said. "I feel like it doesn't matter who's out there. If I stick to my game plan, I have a good shot of helping the team out."
Delivering against the Cardinals, who hammered the Mets by a combined 19-2 in the previous two games, was important because it gave the home team a split of the series against one of the best teams in baseball.
"It was nice to get those against a tough team and split the series," Duda said. "They came out for two days and kind of whipped up on us . . . I think we're getting rolling offensively. It should be fun."