The Mets, victims of so many narrow losses this season, found themselves in need of insurance. They entered the eighth inning against the Mariners on Tuesday night leading by just one run, a vulnerable position considering Jacob deGrom's latest impressive outing.
Enter the slugger, Lucas Duda.
Since the beginning of the second half, the Mets have endured an offensive hiccup, a slowdown that could be traced to their power outage. But with one powerful swing in Tuesday night's 3-1 victory over the Mariners, Duda provided some much-needed cushion.
Duda's majestic solo shot soared into the upper reaches of rightfield, crashing off the ribbon board that covers the facing of the second deck. For a split second, the typically reserved Duda appeared to admire the drive, the Mets' first homer since the All-Star break.
"It was a pitch up, and I was lucky enough to get the barrel on it," Duda said.
His team-leading 16th homer helped the Mets (47-53) end their three-game losing streak and they avoided falling to 10 games behind the NL East-leading Nationals.
DeGrom, a rookie, extended his most sustained run of consistency since making his debut in May. In seven innings, deGrom allowed just one run and five hits, striking out seven.
The mop-topped righthander escaped a threat in the fifth, working past a throwing error by Daniel Murphy, limiting the damage to only an RBI double by Dustin Ackley.
"We are seeing exactly what all the minor-league reports ever said about this guy," Terry Collins said, "and that is that he keeps the ball down, gets ground balls . . . He's going to be a tough guy to deal with."
So far, deGrom has made it difficult for the Mets to do anything but leave him in the starting rotation, even though Collins has mentioned giving him a temporary bullpen assignment to curtail his innings.
"To be honest, that's why he's still starting," Collins said before the game. "But again, like everything else, one of the things you do when you have a young team is that you have to balance the development with the health."
Since June 21, when he collected his first big-league victory, deGrom is 4-1 with a 2.12 ERA.
"Everything's feeling good," deGrom said. "I'm in line and the ball's coming out really well."
Tuesday night, deGrom earned the victory with only scant support from an offense missing one of its most-potent bats. Curtis Granderson, the Mets' rightfielder, fell ill with a stomach issue that was so bad he required fluids and the night off.
Without him, the Mets struggled to scratch out two runs against Mariners starter Erasmo Ramirez, who racked up a career-high 10 strikeouts in seven innings.
But the Mets got some timely help. After Bobby Abreu singled to lead off the second, Travis d'Arnaud followed with a drive to centerfield, where the Mariners' James Jones whiffed on an ill-fated dive. A winded Abreu scored from first base and d'Arnaud pulled into third with a triple.
Two batters later, d'Arnaud scored on Ruben Tejada's single to leftfield, pushing the Mets into the lead. They didn't score again until Duda's homer in the eighth.