Terry Collins remained patient with Lucas Duda, and it has paid off big time
Lucas Duda’s season could easily be defined in three different spurts.
But it seems as though his spurts come in big moments for the Mets.
Or in Wednesday night’s case, historical moments for the franchise.
He had been mired in a 3-for-24 skid with 13 strikeouts in the playoffs, but his slump actually extended further than that.
He had been hitless in his last ten at-bats with six strikeouts heading into the postseason, going just 3-for-24 with 19 strikeouts through Tuesday’s game three of the NLCS.
Faced with questions about whether or not Duda would be benched, Terry Collins stuck with his first baseman through what was another deep slump for his powerful first baseman. He counted on him breaking out of his slump at some point during the postseason while taking his superior defense behind the pitching staff.
“Once in a while you guys show players you’ve got confidence in them, and I thought I did that with Lucas, knowing that if he breaks out, he can carry us,” the manager explained after Wednesday’s win.
It was certainly a test of faith having Duda’s empty swings in the middle of the lineup. But the decision was made easier for Collins to stick with his first baseman thanks to the club starting the playoffs winning six of their first eight games.
And on Wednesday, Duda lived up to his manager’s faith.
He broke through with a massive three-run home run in the first inning to lead the Mets on their way to the National League pennant.
But he didn’t stop there.
He would go on to drive in two more runs for a five RBI night, tying him with Curtis Granderson, Edgardo Alfonzo, Carlos Delgado, and Rusty Staub for the most RBI in a game in Mets postseason history.
“Tonight,” Collins said, he broke out.”
For Duda, he was never concerned with his slump despite onlookers having their doubts in his ability.
Rather, he was more concerned with the big picture.
“As I’ve said all postseason, it’s not about individual stats,” Duda explained. “It’s about winning when you get to this part of the season. I was fortunate enough to be able to contribute today and happy we got the win.”
But it’s these big breakout performances which have defined Duda’s season to date.
Indeed, Duda hit 27 home runs in 2015. Yes, he finished with a higher OPS in 2015 (.838) than he did in 2014 (.830) and a career-high 33 doubles in 135 games.
But 18 of his 27 home runs came in a total of 16 games – he hit six home runs in a seven-game span in May, seven home runs in a six-game span at the end of July and in early August, and five home runs in a three-game span in late September.
In his other 117 games, Duda hit nine home runs total.
But he was in the middle of a hot streak when the Nationals visited Citi Field in early August, and his power surge help the Mets obliterate Washington with a three-game sweep.
His next power surge came when the Mets ultimately clinched the National League East in late September.
And of course it was his breakout night on Wednesday which carried the Mets to the pennant.
So at the very least, Duda’s hot streaks has counted for something meaningful in 2015.
And certainly on Wednesday, his bat meant the world to the Mets.