Commentary

Bay's power stroke makes timely return

Mets slugger triples season's homer output in big win vs. Bombers

Updated: May 24, 2010, 2:42 PM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

Jason Bay insisted he never became unnerved by Citi Field, nor by having only one homer more than a quarter of the way through his inaugural season with the New York Mets.

Regardless, the Mets were languishing in last place without long-ball production from Bay. So his two-homer game Sunday night against CC Sabathia, as the Mets beat the Yankees 6-4 in a Subway Series rubber game, could not have come at a better time for the Amazins and embattled manager Jerry Manuel.

"It's kind of like a big exhale," Bay said. "Hopefully it's not the novelty anymore. We can just kind of move on and get to the day-to-day baseball."

[+] EnlargeJason Bay
Nick Laham/Getty ImagesJason Bay's first homer was a two-run blast in the second.

The Mets had projected that Bay's homer total would decline from the 36 he hit last season with Boston because of the spacious dimensions of Citi Field relative to Fenway Park. Still, their internal numbers predicted Bay would hit 30 long balls this season.

Yet entering the series finale against the Yankees, Bay stood at one homer in 161 at-bats -- production so paltry that Manuel recently felt compelled to replace him with rookie Ike Davis in the cleanup spot.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only two other players in major league history had 35-plus homers in a season and then took more at-bats to go deep twice the following year: Rogers Hornsby, who had 39 homers in 1925, then took 163 at-bats for his second homer of 1926; and Don Baylor, who had 36 homers while earning the American League MVP award in 1979, but took 205 at-bats for his second the following season.

"You look at the numbers and you see 'one,'" said Alex Cora, Bay's teammate in Boston as well as New York, who opened the scoring on a two-run single. "But he's been putting together good at-bats. Even on the road, he hit a few balls, he was getting very close, started hitting the ball in the air. That's a good sign for him. That first ball he hit, he really hit it. And then obviously the second one you feel pretty confident it's about to be fun. He's one of the best hitters in the league.

"We were joking around -- probably that's what he needed, to see those guys. He was pretty successful last year against them."

Cora was referring to Bay's career numbers against the Yankees: .357 (40-for-112) with six homers and 25 RBIs in 31 starts. That production included a two-out, two-run, ninth-inning homer off Mariano Rivera last April 24 at Fenway Park.

"I'm not good enough to ramp it up team-by-team," Bay said. "It's just been one of those things. There are certain teams you don't do well against, and for whatever reason the times I've faced them I've had some success. But that still doesn't make it any easier."

Bay walked in his first plate appearance, when the Mets left the bases loaded in the first inning against Sabathia. An inning later, he followed Cora's two-run single with a two-run homer. Then, to lead off the fifth, Bay again homered, this time to the opposite field, as the Mets took a 5-0 lead.

"CC's supplying a lot of that power, too," Bay said about the homer to right-center field. "It's a little easier to get it out that way when you're throwing low-90s than someone throwing mid-80s. That is a part of my game. I can hit it to the opposite field -- not all the time. I had seen some get eaten up, so I was hoping I had enough. Let's put it that way."

It was the eighth time a Met had homered twice in a Subway Series game. The last: Carlos Delgado on June 27, 2008. The others at home: David Wright, Ty Wigginton and Kazuo Matsui.

Only two other right-handed batters had multi-homer games against Sabathia in the southpaw's career, according to ESPN Stats & Information: Cincinnati's David Ross in 2006 and Tampa Bay's Adam Piatt in '03.

Bay's only other homer this season was April 27 against the Los Angeles Dodgers' Hiroki Kuroda -- a gap of 92 at-bats without a long ball.

When Bay was plunked in the back with a 75 mph changeup from reliever Sergio Mitre in the sixth, it was his ninth straight plate appearance in which he reached base -- the longest streak by a Met since John Olerud had a streak of 15 straight in 1998.

Bay also has a hit in seven straight at-bats, matching his career high set in 2004. The last Met to have a hit in seven straight at-bats in the same season was Wright in 2005, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The franchise record, which Bay can reach Tuesday against the Philadelphia Phillies, is nine straight at-bats with a hit by Olerud in 1998 and Jose Vizcaino in '96.

"Who would have thought my third home run would be such a big talking point when the season started?" Bay quipped. "I've maintained the entire time -- although easier said than done -- just try not to press and try to be the same guy. It's nice to be rewarded with two home runs in a game. Especially with CC going, I mean, it wasn't going to be easy. I feel a lot better. I know, obviously, two in one game helps, but I can't get them all back at once."

Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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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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