PHILADELPHIA - The Mets have committed to learning more about the players who might be part of their future. And Saturday night, they endured some fallout from making such a decision.
First baseman Lucas Duda, who entered play batting .149 against lefties, hit into a rally-killing double play against Phillies southpaw Cole Hamels. And late in a tight game, Wilmer Flores' limited range at shortstop helped the Phillies extend an inning.
But there were reminders, too, about why the Mets have chosen this path. With one out in the 11th inning, Duda delivered a bases-loaded single that made the difference in the Mets' 2-1 victory over the Phillies. The clutch hit came against Antonio Bastardo, a lefthander.
"He did pretty good,'' Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I'm really happy for him and happy for us . . . It's great for his confidence.''
The Mets must find out if Duda can build upon his breakout season by showing more success against lefties. They must find out if Flores' defense will be steady enough to justify keeping his bat in the lineup. They must find out if outfielder Matt den Dekker can overcome his propensity for striking out.
"I'm feeling good right now," said den Dekker, whose recent tear at Triple-A Las Vegas prompted his promotion. "I'm just hoping to keep that going."
Den Dekker is expected to start Sunday in leftfield, where he's expected to make most of the starts for the rest of the season.
The Mets believe that the rest of the summer must double as a proving ground, but they also insist that they're still striving to win.
On Saturday night, the Mets accomplished both goals.
Righthander Dillon Gee bounced back with his best outing of the second half. Though he issued three walks, he allowed only three hits in seven innings and brought a shutout into the seventh. "It's nice to go up there and put up. a quality start,'' Gee said. "Finally, I felt good.''
After retiring 12 in a row, Gee made his only costly mistake of the game as Carlos Ruiz launched a shot into the leftfield stands with two outs in the seventh. Ruiz's third homer of the year tied the score because the Mets missed a chance to do more damage against Hamels.
The Mets loaded the bases with none out in the fifth but scored only one run. Flores' hard shot was knocked down by third baseman Cody Asche, who got the force at second as Duda scored. Gee then fouled out and Curtis Granderson flied out.
The score remained tied until the 11th, when Duda put the Mets ahead for good.
With Jenrry Mejia nursing a stiff right calf, setup man Jeurys Familia nailed down the save, again rewarding the Mets for leaning upon their younger players.
Said Collins, "That was a good grind-out win for us.''
On Sunday, den Dekker will begin his first extended chance to contribute.
The Mets already know about his defensive prowess, which once was considered a step ahead of Gold Glove contender Juan Lagares. But they know much less about whether he can cut down on his high strikeout rate.
Beginning June 19, the first game of his latest stint with Las Vegas, den Dekker hit .402. The Mets challenged the 27-year-old to make more contact, and thanks to adjustments he made with Las Vegas, his strikeout rate is down to 16.9 percent from a lifetime minor-league percentage of 23.2.
With a shorter swing and simpler mechanics, den Dekker said he has had more time to recognize pitches. "It's probably the first time for me in pro ball," he said. "I think it's just time, and maturing maybe a little bit."
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