Mets play long ball; Bay plays long haul

Angel Pagan #16 of the New York

Angel Pagan #16 of the New York Mets celebrates a win over the Washington Nationals with teammates Lucas Duda #21 and Jason Bay #44 at Nationals Park. (Sept. 2, 2011) (Credit: Getty Images)

WASHINGTON -- One month is not going to save the season for Jason Bay. What it can do, however, is help him keep his sanity this winter and maybe start unlearning two years' worth of bad habits.

Too much to ask? After the Mets' 7-3 victory over the Nationals on Friday night, there are only 26 games left for Bay to fix his swing.

David Wright, Nick Evans and Lucas Duda homered and R.A. Dickey, pitching on three days' rest, allowed three runs in six-plus innings for his eighth straight quality start, the longest streak for a Mets pitcher since Johan Santana had 14 to end the 2008 season.

It was Wright's first homer in 125 at-bats at Nationals Park, the only NL stadium where he had yet to go deep. Josh Stinson pitched 12/3 scoreless innings in his major-league debut, striking out two, and also drew a walk in the eighth.

As for Bay, he went 0-for-4, including two strikeouts, as his average dipped to .230.

After spending months trying to make adjustments, Bay sat down earlier this week with hitting coach Dave Hudgens and re-examined video from his 2009 season with the Red Sox. That 36-homer, 119-RBI campaign earned him a $66-million contract from the Mets, and it's been downhill for Bay since.

Both he and Hudgens believe that decline may be due to his efforts to become a more consistent hitter, for the sake of a few batting-average points. Now the two have been working to undo those fixes.

"I kind of got away from it, then I got really far away from it," Bay said, "and then I didn't know how to get it back. It's like starting all over again from that point.

"What I've already done, I've proven that I can succeed with that. Although it's not perfect, everything else I've tried ain't working, either. That's my focus for the next [26] games -- to get back to something I feel comfortable with, something that I know produces results once again."

To give Bay an idea what was going on, Hudgens matched up video of his 2009 season alongside recent footage from this year. Bay was surprised to learn just how different he looked.

, believing all along that he was an adjustment or two away from regaining that form, mostly involving his hands and the timing of his front foot.

As Bay described it, his problems have more to do with the sequence of events during his swing than the stance, even though he has tried to open up his front foot more in recent weeks.

Before Friday's game, Bay did his usual soft-toss routine at the indoor cage, with Hudgens studying him from a folding chair. During those 50 or so tosses, Bay gets the feeling back as line drives jump off his bat with every swing. But that's only step one before moving up the chain to batting practice and ultimately the game, when that muscle memory is essential. Bay still is working toward that.

"I think everything that he had tried to do was taking away from his rhythm, his natural whip of the bat," Hudgens said. "Getting back to what he does naturally is going to be the key for him. We just have to ingrain that back into him."

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