David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
A nice redemption story for Curtis Granderson, and a badly needed win at Citi Field, where the Mets too often feel like prisoners in their own home. But let's call Sunday's 4-3 win exactly what it was: a happy accident.
In the 14th inning, Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez believed he was setting up Granderson to hit into a double play by intentionally walking Eric Young Jr. Instead, Gus Schlosser's wild pitch put the winning run at third, and the slumping Granderson, sitting on an 0-for-6 afternoon, got enough of the next fastball to punch a sacrifice fly to leftfield.
Granderson was mobbed by his teammates near first base after making sure the ball traveled far enough, and the Mets got their feel-good finish after needing 4 hours, 37 minutes to complete the Easter matinee. But for Terry Collins, the long day still left him with plenty of unanswered questions about his misfiring lineup.
Collins shook things up for the game by moving Granderson out of the cleanup spot and into what he thought was the more favorable No. 2 position between the speedy Young and the sizzling David Wright. Granderson had looked uncomfortable hitting cleanup, a duty he's never warmed to, and Collins wanted to play the numbers.
For his career, Granderson had a slash line of .264/.359/.516 in the No. 2 hole with a home run every 16 plate appearances. It's a much smaller sample size, but compare that to his cleanup production of .181/.314/.403 in 23 games and a homer every 21 PAs. Point is, Granderson has had very limited experience in the No. 4 spot, but that's precisely where the Mets penciled him in for this season. Oh, and gave him $60 million for the trouble.
"That's why we got him," Collins said before the game. "We got him to produce runs. We had to get somebody behind David and we thought he would be the perfect guy."
So far, Granderson has been less than ideal there. Despite the game-winner, he's still in an 0-for-16 slump. Granderson was serenaded by boos again Sunday thanks to four harmless grounders, a strikeout and even a desperate attempt to bunt for a hit in the seventh inning.
The fans didn't like that, either. "I haven't given them much to cheer about," Granderson said.
Collins doesn't have many options, so he suggested that Granderson is likely to remain where he is for a few games. He joked about flipping him back after Daniel Murphy, the de facto No. 4, took a 1-for-6 and bounced into a double play.
But the obvious man for the job is Lucas Duda, whom Collins left in the sixth spot because he didn't want to overwhelm his fragile slugger with immediate cleanup duty. The same reason Collins cited for moving Granderson out of the prominent role was the one he used for not replacing him with Duda: "It's huge, and that's exactly why I'm not ready to move Lucas there right now. With what's happened here in the past week, he's got enough on his plate, and I didn't want to stir the pot by throwing him in the four-hole right away."
The Mets can't play the sensitive card with him any longer. They chose Duda over Ike Davis -- who, by the way, batted cleanup Sundayfor the Pirates -- and that means trusting him to do the job.
And while we're on the subject of numbers, Duda's best offensive stats have come in the No. 4 spot. In 110 games there, Duda has a slash line of .276/.373/.453 with a home run every 25 plate appearances. So don't tell us Duda can't handle the pressure. As long as Granderson is slumping, Collins is going to have to scrape up offense from somewhere. And in this thin lineup, Duda has to become the hitter the Mets say he can be -- not look for shelter.
Waiting 14 innings for Granderson worked Sunday. The Mets need a better strategy than that.