After Friday night’s win over the Philadelphia Phillies, the Mets now hold a one game and one and a half game lead in the National League Wild Card race over the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals, respectively.
With eight games to play in the regular season, the keys to success for the Mets may be two guys who have contributed far less than originally expected this season.
Duda, who has missed most of the season with a stress fracture in his lower back, has suddenly resurfaced in the Mets’ lineup. In the Mets’ thrilling come-from-behind victory Thursday night, Duda missed ending the game by inches, as his 10th inning rocket to right field sailed to the right of the foul pole.
He got the start at first base on Friday night and looked even more comfortable at the plate, going one-for-three, including a line drive double to the wall in right center field. He looked a bit rusty in the field, but played solidly. Duda is a slick, natural fielding first baseman, so he should get back to form pretty quickly.
Conforto’s struggles have not come due to injury, but rather the dreaded “sophomore slump.”
After a spectacular 2015 rookie season, he has scuffled mightily in 2016. His big league problems seem to be mental, since he has performed well in the minor leagues each time he’s been demoted this season.
Many have argued – myself included – that the Mets have mishandled Conforto and contributed to his mental woes. Yo-yoing the talented youngster back and forth to triple-A, as well as inconsistent playing time when he has been with the team, could not have helped his development.
To Conforto’s credit, he has preemptively toed the company line when addressing his play.
“Absolutely, yeah. Today felt a lot more like it has in the past,” Conforto said Friday after I asked him whether his performance, particularly his three-run home run to the opposite field, reminded him of last year at this time.
He went on: “I think that definitely comes from struggling early and having to work on some things. I think that definitely played a role in where I am today, so that’s very good, positive.”
Positive, no doubt, especially if Conforto continues to produce in whatever role the Mets choose to use him in.
With the pitching pretty much in shambles, the Mets’ offense will be forced to pick up the slack if they have any realistic expectation of success.
Hopefully for the Mets, Conforto and Duda can recapture some of their 2015 magic and help propel the team to a Wild Card spot and maybe beyond.