70° Good Morning
70° Good Morning
SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Lucas Duda makes Nationals pay for pitching to him

New York Mets first baseman Lucas Duda follows

New York Mets first baseman Lucas Duda follows the flight of his solo homer to right in the bottom of the fourth inning during a game against the Washington Nationals on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015 at Citi Field. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

The night after Citi Field vibrated with multiple standing ovations for Wilmer Flores, the Flushing ballpark thumped and strummed to a different tune. As if someone had dialed up the bass.

DOO-da. DOO-da. DOO-da.

Get used to it. The way Lucas Duda has been wrecking baseballs lately, including two more homers and the winning double in Saturday night's 3-2 victory over the Nationals, we're sensing that chant is going to be part of the Citi soundtrack for a while. And if that happens, probably into October as well.

For all the talk of the deadline trades that rejuvenated the Mets by upgrading the roster, we should start mentioning the reacquisition of Duda from hitter's limbo. And it was no coincidence that Duda's revival came right after the first wave of deals that brought Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe from the Braves on July 24.

That same weekend, Terry Collins had a talk with his players, the well-publicized "Hit or Sit" conversation. The manager stressed to Duda that he still had faith in him but that it was time to refocus for the playoff push. And those unable to contribute would be watching it mostly from the bench.

"We got to start producing some runs or they'll find somebody else," Collins recalled telling Duda. "He told me, 'Got it.' And you've seen the results."

Like Flores' heroics Friday night, what Duda has done since that conversation had to be seen to be believed.

Duda has eight home runs in his last seven games -- and before his RBI double off Nationals lefty Matt Thornton in the eighth inning, his last eight hits had been homers. That streak is a franchise record, stretching way past the five straight homers launched by Bobby Bonilla (1992) and Ike Davis (2012). Duda also has homered off each Ross brother, Tyson and Joe, in the span of four days.

Saturday night's laser show was Duda's fifth multi-homer game this season. He drilled a long home run into the right-centerfield seats in the fourth inning and followed with an opposite-field shot onto the Party Deck that tied the score at 2 leading off the seventh. That was his 20th homer, including 17 at Citi Field.

"Just getting lucky," Duda said. "Balls are falling in."

They sure are. On the other side of the fence.

The Mets haven't had a player with back-to-back 20-homer seasons since Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran had three straight from 2006-08, which also happened to be the length of this franchise's mid-decade Renaissance.

Bringing in Johnson and Uribe, then grabbing Yoenis Cespedes at the deadline to further protect Duda finally is going to make other teams take the Mets' lineup seriously.

Look what went down Saturday night with the game on the line. With one out and Curtis Granderson on second, Nationals manager Matt Williams called for Thornton to intentionally walk Cespedes.

Cespedes was 0-for-3 with a strikeout to that point. Duda had homered twice, and his previous eight hits had left the park. Williams chose to play matchup, but Duda has a higher OPS (.895) against lefties this season.

"I was surprised," Cespedes said through an interpreter. "I didn't think for a second they would walk me."

As for Duda, he says he didn't think twice. Most sluggers view such strategy as an insult and don't mind saying so afterward. But that's not Duda. We're not sure what could get him riled up.

Judging by his Instagram account, maybe a broken air-hockey table? No more red velvet cake? Not this.

"Nah," he said. "I really take the ego out of it." So with a calm, clear head, he ripped a 1-and-2 slider to the left-centerfield gap.

The Nats failed to get Duda out Saturday night, and we can't imagine any team taking him for granted from now on. If they do, chances are they'll be hearing about it at Citi Field.

DOO-da. DOO-da.

"That,'' he said, "was pretty awesome."

New York Sports