Lucas Duda gets the nod at first, blasts two homers in Mets' victory
After an offseason that did not clear up their first-base situation and a spring training in which no one played well enough to claim the job, the Mets finally took matters into their own hands. To the lingering question "Who's on first?" they announced it is Lucas Duda's job to lose.
He sure looks as if he does not want to lose it. Duda hit a pair of two-run home runs Friday night to lead the Mets to their first win of the season, 4-3, over the Reds at Citi Field.
"It was great to have him step forward and step up today and do what he did. We needed it as a team, immensely," Terry Collins said a few minutes after the game and a few hours after the announcement that Duda is the choice to start over Ike Davis. "As we've said many, many times, it's just about confidence. Maybe once in a while, once you feel good about yourself, you can start to do what everybody expects you to do."
Duda did more than any Met might have been expected to do, considering the week they have had. In the fourth inning, after Curtis Granderson foiled the Reds' shift by slicing a double down the third-base line, Duda rocked Mike Leake's first pitch into the Mets' bullpen for a 2-1 lead. Two innings later, with David Wright on first after an infield single, Duda drove another shot over the rightfield fence. That put his team up 4-1.
Afterward, Duda tried to make it sound as though his new status had nothing to do with his big night. "No, just another day," he said, but he seemed to be trying hard to stifle a grin.
This was anything but another day for a club that had gone 0-3 and looked horrible doing it. There was a commanding performance by winning pitcher Jenrry Mejia, who struck out five in the first two innings (and a career-high eight in six innings) despite a cold, soaking mist that made the ball hard to hold.
"That was pretty tough. I tried to do the best I can. Sometimes I don't feel my fingers," said the man whose night offered a reminder that he is a big part of the Mets' future. At 24, he is younger than Matt Harvey.
"Awesome. He pitched lights out," said Eric Young Jr., whose catch at the leftfield fence in the first prevented a home run.
Then there was the bullpen, which had been the shakiest part all week. John Lannan allowed a two-run homer to Jay Bruce in the seventh and Kyle Farnsworth got four clutch outs (one a caught stealing by catcher Anthony Recker on speedster Billy Hamilton). Then Jose Valverde stranded two runners to get his first Mets save.
"It was huge," Collins said of the impact on the team's psyche.
No one loomed larger than Duda. "This by any means doesn't mean it's my job," he said.
"I'm just going to go out every day, play hard and see what happens."
Davis, whom the Mets tried unsuccessfully to deal during the winter, said he had a "fair chance" at the job and that he and Duda remain friends.
"We'll just have to adjust and I'm sure there will be more adjusting as the season goes on," the backup said. "I'm not going to get too many at-bats, but eventually something will happen and I'll get a chance to play."
Maybe, maybe not. But as of now, the classic question "Who's on first?" does not merit the classic answer: "I don't know."