Commentary

Duda gets triple-double dose of mettle

Mets' big man builds confidence by slugging three two-baggers in rout of Rangers

Updated: June 26, 2011, 2:59 AM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Lucas Duda is listed at a towering 6-foot-4, 254 pounds. He played baseball at the University of Southern California, and now for the New York Mets. So the last thing you would figure would be an issue with Duda is his confidence level.

And yet, first manager Terry Collins and then Duda -- both unprompted -- used that word in dissecting the rookie's 4-for-5, three-double, four-RBI performance Saturday in a 14-5 rout of the Texas Rangers. As in, maybe this finally will give Duda the confidence to believe he belongs at the major league level.

Duda has openly -- and probably too candidly -- questioned on multiple occasions whether he belongs at this level since his Sept. 1 call-up last year when rosters expanded.

"I think anytime you're at this level and you start to swing better, you've got to start building some confidence," Collins said. "Hey, look, he's here. He's swinging pretty good. I think he should start having some confidence in his ability. This guy has a chance to be a real, real good hitter."

[+] EnlargeLucas Duda
Tim Heitman/US PresswireLucas Duda tied a Mets record with his three-double game.

Said Duda about Saturday's output: "That was actually a big confidence builder. Hopefully I can build on it and continue it."

Duda started at first base, with Daniel Murphy moving over to third for injured Justin Turner (thumb), although Collins planned to start Duda somewhere anyway.

Duda matched the franchise record for doubles in a game, which had been done 25 previous times. He also nearly ended an ignominious Mets streak.

Batting with the bases loaded in the sixth inning, Duda sent a shot to deep left-center. It stayed in the park for his final double, but off the bat looked as though it had a chance to clear the wall. Had Duda homered, he would have ended the Mets' grand slam drought. The Mets have been out-slammed an MLB-record 18-0 by opponents since Angel Pagan slugged one on Aug. 1, 2009, against Arizona's Clay Zavada at Citi Field.

"I hit it pretty well," said Duda, agreeing that he thought the ball had a chance to clear the wall. "The ball travels pretty well here. But I was still running. I was still on my horse."

The Mets scored a season-high 14 runs and matched a season high with 17 hits, and yet Collins was mildly antsy because of the Rangers' long ball prowess. Texas slugged three homers Saturday and has six long balls in the series to the Mets' none.

And that's where Duda comes in. With third baseman David Wright (back) out until after the All-Star break and first baseman Ike Davis (ankle) potentially lost for the season, the Mets desperately need a home run threat to emerge. Nickel-and-diming opponents with singles is just not enough to keep up with opponents' scoring, especially with the Mets in the midst of a stretch against American League opponents -- Texas, then at Detroit and home against the Yankees.

Collins has mentioned it often, although he has mostly kept his humor about it.

Jokingly asked if Saturday's uncharacteristic run support might have contributed to starting pitcher Jon Niese's heart fluttering, Collins deadpanned: "No, that was my heart rate that you heard."

Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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