Thursday, August 21, 2014

Breakout Performers

If you blinked, you missed the Mets series in Oakland, one of those two-game series where both games come and are gone within the span of 24 hours. This series in Oakland was a particular extreme, given that Tuesday's game started late and ended Wednesday morning, and Wednesday afternoon's game took place while I was at work and so I only ended up watching a portion of the proceedings on replay later in the evening. Fortunately, the Mets shook off their troubles and hit more than they have in several days, banging out 10 hits and scoring 8 runs, 7 of which came off of ballyhooed (and hairy) A's starter Jeff Samardzija to win a somewhat sloppy affair, 8-5.

Zack Wheeler and Lucas Duda, two Mets who have certainly enjoyed mid-Summer breakouts, were the stars of the show this afternoon, in performances that seem to have delightfully become the norm as this season has progressed. For Wheeler, it was continuing a string of strong outings, not quite perfect but good enough to get his team ahead and get himself his 9th win of the season. Wheeler didn't make it out of the 6th inning, in another instance where he threw too many pitches too early in the game, but while he was in, he pitched well, allowing 4 runs in his 5.2 innings. Only two of said runs were earned, thanks to a pair Daniel Murphy errors, the first of which wasn't a spastic fit so much as an ill-advised throw home that sailed nowhere particularly close to its intended target. The second was more the garden-variety Daniel Murphy error where it looks like someone blew up a firecracker right behind him as he was attempting to make a play.

No matter. By time Murphy happened, the Mets had already blown up for 5 runs in the 3rd inning and 2 more in the 4th. Their 4th inning rally was kicked off by Eric Campbell, whose 3rd Home Run of the season led off the inning, and capped off by Lucas Duda, who all of a sudden has become a legitimate power threat in the middle of the Mets lineup. Duda, who everyone here knows I had anointed a clueless disaster last season, has made a complete 180˚ over the past two months and has not only made me eat my words but turned into a trusted source of offensive production. He's begun to get aggressive and the results are now career highs in Home Runs and RBI and a whole lot of good vibes, including the ones he generated with his 3-run Home Run Wednesday afternoon, Last season, Lucas Duda managed to hit 15 Home Runs, and 14 of them came with the bases empty. Now, you actually look forward to Duda coming up with men on base because he's in a good enough groove that you actually feel confident that he's going to come through. Maybe not always, but certainly more than he was. It's become quite clear that the Mets chose wisely in keeping him over Ike Davis, and I'll happily eat my words and admit that I'm glad he got his act together. I won't say I was wrong, because for all of last season and the beginning of this season, I was right, but he's now proven himself much better than I gave him credit for.

So, the Mets are now done in Oakland, where it seems they were finished before they started. Now, they're off to Los Angeles to play the Dodgers, who aren't quite The Hot Team in the way they were last season, but they're still one of MLB's "Darling" teams, and Chavez Ravine hasn't exactly been a pleasant place for the Mets to play in recent years. But, we'll see how this works out for them.

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