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Mets' youth working against their offense

Jordany Valdespin follows through with his home run

Jordany Valdespin follows through with his home run swing in the sixth inning. (August 12, 2012) Credit: David Pokress

The Mets’ response to manager Terry Collins’ criticism of its offense wasn’t exactly an overpowering performance – literally – but one that was immediate and adequate in last night’s 6-5 win over the Braves.

The offense cranked out 10 hits, eight off starter Ben Sheets, who had held them to two hits over six scoreless innings in a loss on July 15. And, for good measure, Jordany Valdespin hit his eighth home run, a solo shot to right that put the Mets up 5-1 in the sixth inning.

Before the game Collins criticized the collective approach and plate discipline of his hitters, picking up where he left off in Saturday’s post-game press conference.

“Lately, we’ve been striking out quite a bit,” the manager said before the game. (The Mets struck out six times last night and whiffed 10 times in Saturday’s 9-3 loss to the Braves.) “With a team that doesn’t have a lot of’s one thing if you go 1-for-4 and hit a ball in the seats and strike out three times. It’s another when [a team has to] scratch out singles and doubles.”

The Mets scratched out two first-inning runs on David Wright’s RBI double, preceding an Ike Davis single. Both went 2-for-4.

“We know you don’t win many games when you strike out,” said Wright, hitting .246 since the All-Star break. “We don’t have the kind of offense where we can out-slug teams. We have to grind it out, and we got back to doing that.”

But lest they be pronounced cured after one game: the Mets’ offense, which has produced 506 runs, remains a concern and has contributed to a 9-20 record thus far in the second half. Their 900 strikeouts entering last night’s game was only 10th most in the majors. More problematic, it seems, has been the power shortage.

Their 98 homers ranks 26th, and the .397 slugging percentage is 20th. Only three players on the roster have hit as many as 10 homers: Davis (20), Wright (16), Scott Hairston (14). Lucas Duda, who was demoted to the minors last month, still is fourth on the team with 12. Add to that a team batting average of .257.

Collins said it’s impossible to determine if the recent spate of strikeouts is symptomatic of a lack of focus during this midseason swoon, but insisted his players aren’t giving away at-bats. “We’ve got some pieces that’ll work," he said. "We’ve just got to make sure they get better.”

Davis said the Mets wouldn’t ever be a club that clobbers the ball in Citi Field’s pitcher-friendly dimensions. “I don’t think we’re that short on power,” said the first baseman, who leads the team with 20 homers and also 104 strikeouts. “I don’t think we’ll ever be top of the charts powerwise, just because the park doesn’t allow that too much.”

Although he has only four homers, Daniel Murphy has been one of the team’s most productive hitters, batting .296 with 49 RBIs. He attributed the struggles to youth.

“We’re still learning the league and adjusting to it,” he said. “I think hitting is contagious. We just have to start stringing quality at-bats together.”

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