For the better part of this postseason, Lucas Duda has been the slumbering giant -- that looming presence in the middle of the lineup that promised production but, more often than not, couldn't quite execute. He struggled against Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, did nothing against Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta, all the while trying not to let frustration get the best of him while his teammates cruised.
They're not cruising anymore.
Down 2-0 going into Game 3 of the World Series Friday night at Citi Field, the Mets are facing long odds against a Kansas City team that suddenly seems more than equipped to dismantle the Mets' hotshot rotation. But if there is hope -- after all, the 1986 Mets managed to crawl out of a similar hole, and their two losses came at home -- it can be found in Duda, who suddenly has found his swing.
If the slumbering giant is stirring, Terry Collins said Thursday, well, they might just have a chance.
"He can put you on his back and carry you," Collins said. "When we made the big trade and he got hot for those two weeks and put all those home runs together, everybody just relaxed and said, 'Let's get on, because he's hitting home runs right now.' And that's what he can do."
From July 25 to Aug. 2, Duda hit nine homers and drove in 12 runs in eight games, compiling a .393/.452/1.393 slash line. His 27 homers and 73 RBIs led the team in the regular season.
These days, Duda isn't quite going at that July rate, but he's certainly put together a good stretch, one that started in Game 3 of the NLCS. He got his first RBI of the postseason then, on a seventh-inning groundout, but for someone as streaky as Duda, it was enough.
In Game 4, he was 3-for-4 with a homer and five RBIs in the first two innings. In his last four games, he's 8-for-16 with two doubles, that home run and seven RBIs. He had both of the Mets' hits against Johnny Cueto in Game 2 of the World Series.
"One of the things that we talk about when he gets into a little funk is he kind of gets pull-happy," Collins said. "Right now, he's just trying to make contact. He's trying to use the field to hit, and it produced a run for us [Wednesday night]. He's got enough power that he can hit the ball out of any part of the park."
It'll be a challenge to do it against Yordano Ventura, who allowed only 14 home runs in the regular season, but he has otherwise been hittable: He had a 4.08 ERA in the regular season and has allowed 20 hits in 172/3 postseason innings.
"Definitely by no means are we done," Duda said Wednesday. "We dug ourselves a little bit of a hole here but we're used to it. We're used to coming back and fighting back."
With Neil Best