CINCINNATI -- Over his first 18 games of the season, Lucas Duda hit .323. Over his next 12, he hit .195. There was a 23-game stretch from April to May in which he hit one home run, followed by a seven-game run in which he hit six of them, a 46-game stretch in which he hit three, and an eight-game span in which he hit nine.
Duda, in other words, is uncommonly streaky. But as the Mets close in on their first postseason berth in nine years, he is again catching fire, delivering a pair of three-run homers in Friday's 12-5 win over the Reds to total five extra-base hits and eight RBIs over his last three games.
"If I knew the secret to staying hot all the time, I'd definitely apply it," Duda said. "But it's baseball. You're going to have ups and downs."
When Duda returned from the disabled list on Sept. 8, he initially struggled to regain his timing at the plate. Hitting coach Kevin Long pointed to Duda's pronounced leg kick as a "double-edged sword," which at that moment was hurting him; the same timing mechanism that helps Duda stay locked in when he is hitting well can keep him off-track for longer when he is not.
What that means for the Mets, with the postseason approaching, is that the team may have one of its most dangerous hitters back in prime form. While it will take a career-defining hot streak for Duda to match last year's career-high total of 30 home runs, he will at least finish with a number in that neighborhood. Duda now has 24 long balls with eight games remaining, though he is liable to rest for a few of them with the Mets on course to clinch early.
"It's huge," manager Terry Collins said. "He's a big piece in our lineup. He can do huge damage. To add another bat into the middle of that lineup can make a huge difference."