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Apr 23

Mets Reach 10 as Lagares Does Amazin’

Before John Mayberry, Jr. led off the bottom first with a triple, the Mets had successfully scored 75% of the time with a runner on third and less than two outs. That’s an extraordinary figure considering the NL average is 53% and the number of opportunities. The team’s 32 chances were second to the Cubs 36, and the 24 successful scores were seven more than the second best Padres. So, yeah, Mayberry getting stranded at first felt like a tone setter but it wasn’t like the team suddenly morphed into last year’s club (47% with the league average at 50%) or the perfectly league average 2013 squad at 49%.

Eric Stults did well with his approach to both Juan Lagares and Lucas Duda. He changed pitch heights extremely well, striking out Lagares with a pitch up out of the zone and later, in the third striking him out again low inside. How does a guy who barely touches ninety strike out five? By keeping the Mets hitters guessing where the pitch is going to be. The Mets got to him in the second with an Eric Campbell leadoff double and a Wilmer Flores RBI single, but Stults did well to strike out Mayberry Jr. with, what else, a fastball up.

During this entire 10-game winning streak I’ve been more than impressed with how the team fights back after being down early. They did it again Wednesday, twice, with Flores once again providing a huge, late-inning homerun. I’ve been critical of the Mets choosing to start Flores and not chase an established star (as many have), but he’s settled down at short (turning some nice double-plays last night, notably one started by Dillon Gee) and his clutch hitting has helped this team in a big way.

The team has now won 10-games in a row, the most since 2008, and the 12-3 start to the year is tied with the 1986 team. The team isn’t where it is right now without Flores, so that’s my way of saying I was wrong . . . sort of, I guess.

Another thing I’ve been wondering as I’ve watched the team string together hits is how well they’ve done with runners in scoring position. Perhaps it’s just the big innings that have jaded my perception, but it seems like the team does really well, like unsustainably well if you catch my meaning, with RISP. Well, maybe a little but not a regression slap in the face a few games away concern. Overall, the team is batting .263/.355/.316 with RISP while the NL average is .252/.330/.384. Maybe the team is hitting more singles with runners on (the team has only five extra-base hits under those circumstances, which would be the fewest if not for the Phillies having only three and the Astros with five), but the .263 average places them 13th in all of baseball and sixth in the NL.

Now, let’s discuss Lagares.

I love this catch. You love this catch. I imagine the only one who doesn’t love this catch is Jace Peterson. That I love this catch is sort of an understatement since I re-watched it about thirty times on my television while I had the game playing on my iPad and then I re-watched after the game was over. WTH? He’s looking over his right shoulder, throws his glove out and the ball settles into his mitt as if by magnets. I love Gee’s reaction. He hardly seems impressed. That’s when you know you’re a great fielder when the team doesn’t collectively sprint to center to high five and bump shoulders. Unreal. If anyone wondered why Lagares won the Gold Glove last year, a play like that should quiet their doubts.

If that ball drops, it’s an easy double, possibly a triple, and the Braves in all likelihood score and take a 3-1 lead. In the bottom of the inning Flores homers, and in the eighth Lagares extends his hitting streak to nine games with a hit-and-run single. Remember that whole 75% conversion thing? Duda drove in Curtis Granderson from third with no outs, so everything is back to normal (Flores’ RBI single in the second also came with less than two outs). Lagares saves a run and helps contribute to scoring the go-ahead.

Also, with Duda, in the sixth he lined a single to right. Not a big deal except it was his first hit this year against a lefty’s curveball. Okay, so maybe Stults essentially spun one up there, and it wasn’t a particularly good curve, but it had the essence of a curve and Duda did everything but deposit it in the bullpen.

Oh, since being recalled to play third after David Wright was placed on the 15-day disabled list, Eric Campbell is batting .286/.414/.333 and playing solid defense (on error through 26 total chances so far). There’s always this hope that when players get injured their replacements will do a passable job. The Mets are receiving real, quality contributions from Campbell and Kevin Plawecki after the early maladies.

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