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Lucas Duda 3-for-3, making measurable progress

Lucas Duda of the Mets connects on a

Lucas Duda of the Mets connects on a second-inning base hit against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field on Tuesday, July 8, 2014. Credit: Jim McIsaac

He's likely not one of the first names that come to mind when you think of the National League's best slugging first basemen. Nor is he likely to be in a second group of rattled off names. The third? Still, probably not.

Yet, quietly and slowly, Lucas Duda is emerging as one of the NL's most productive first basemen when it comes to the combination of power and getting on base for the Mets.

After going 3-for-3 with two walks and a pair of doubles, one RBI and a run Tuesday night, Duda owns a slash line of .260/.359/.485 with 13 home runs and 45 RBIs.

His first double was hit over the head of Braves centerfielder B.J. Upton. His second was a soft liner to leftfield.

"When he starts getting hits to all fields, he's a dangerous hitter because he can hit anybody," manager Terry Collins said. "The middle of our lineup is a whole different animal with him swinging good."

Duda has dramatically improved his strikeout rate this season, which he said was more of a priority heading into this season. He fanned 26.6 percent of the time in 2013 and 26.1 percent in 2012. The number is down to 21.3 this season.

"It may seem pretty elementary, but I've just tried to swing at more strikes," Duda said after the Mets beat the Braves, 8-3, at Citi Field. "I've just tried to stay in the zone more and elevate the ball and put a good swing on it."

It's worked, especially recently. Duda is fifth among qualified NL first basemen in on-base percentage and he's sixth in extra-base hits. His .220 isolated power, or ISO, (which aims to measure a batter's raw power), according to FanGraphs, is seventh in baseball.

Duda is also hitting one home run every 20.2 at-bats. The only first basemen in the NL he trails in the category are the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo (17.1) and the Brewers' Mark Reynolds (17.9). Duda's main flaw is his paltry .156 batting average against lefthanders, which he said could increase with more at-bats and more confidence.

"With Lucas, the more confidence he gets, the hotter he's going to be," Collins said.

Said Duda, "Confidence is growing."

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