Wright's having odd season at plate

Wright's having odd season at plate

BALTIMORE -- Through 62 games, David Wright has struck out 63 times, removing all difficult math from the equation. Wright is on pace to strike out 164 times this season -- more than once per game -- or roughly 40 percent more than his most whiff-prone season to date.

But here's the puzzling part: Wright is otherwise having a sensational season. He is batting .357, leading the National League by a decent margin. He is slugging .515 -- just a shade below his career mark. And yet he has hit only four home runs, putting him on pace for roughly a third as many as he hit last year.

Generally, an increase in strikeouts corresponds to an increase in power -- when a player swings harder, he tends to miss more often. But Wright has somehow managed to boost his average while homering less and striking out more often, a combination that makes little sense.

Unless, of course, Wright has just been unconscionably lucky.

"It's almost like the percentage of balls you put in play is such a high percentage that nobody's out there catching it," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "You've got no fielders out there. You just hit it, and it's a hit."

And with that crack, Manuel stumbled upon a remarkable truth. Through Tuesday's play, Wright's batting average on balls in play, a statistic used to approximate how lucky a given pitcher or hitter has been, sat at .485 -- more than 120 points above his previous career high. What that means is that Wright, for whatever reason, is hitting 'em where they ain't. It can't hold up forever -- or can it?

"I think the strikeouts will go down, and I think the power will go up," Manuel said, allowing for Wright's average to remain high even if his luck begins to fall. "That sounds crazy, but I think that's what's going to happen for him."

If it does, then David Wright will look a bit more like David Wright. But there's no guarantee. Wright noted after Tuesday's game that he has changed his mental approach -- if not his swing -- in order to cater to the cavernous dimensions of Citi Field. He has been "shooting for the gaps," as he put it, aiming for doubles rather than home runs. And the approach has been working.

Wright has never faced Thursday's Orioles starter, Jason Berken, so there's no telling how he might fare. But considering his .436 average in June, Wright -- despite an 0-for-5 that snapped his 11-game hitting streak Wednesday -- currently represents the best face of the Mets.

Livan Hernandez, one of the hottest Mets up until last Friday's no-decision against the Yankees, will start the series finale at Camden Yards.

Pitching matchup
NYM: RHP Livan Hernandez (5-1, 4.33 ERA)
Though he wasn't completely undone until reliever Jon Switzer allowed both of his inherited runners to score, Hernandez labored through 5 1/3 innings last Friday against the Yankees. He allowed seven hits and six runs in all, including three home runs -- one more than he had served up in his previous seven outings combined. Hernandez's next start will come at another homer-friendly park, Camden Yards, where he is 2-0 with a 3.95 ERA for his career.

BAL: RHP Jason Berken (1-3, 7.32 ERA)
Berken had his second rough outing in a row in his last start. The right-hander lasted just 4 1/3 innings, allowing four earned runs on eight hits. He got into an early deficit by allowing a two-run home run in the first inning in his last start against Atlanta, and has seen his ERA go from 2.25 at the end of May to 7.32 in two starts in June.

Rather than pitch in an intrasquad game on Thursday, John Maine (right shoulder fatigue) will throw a side session in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Oliver Perez (tendinitis in right knee) is still scheduled to pitch three innings in that game. ... Sean Green has not allowed a run since May 15, a span of 14 innings. Green has allowed merely two hits in 10 June innings. "Oh, man, that's been the biggest plus for us recently," Manuel said. ... Brian Roberts and Aubrey Huff are a combined 9-for-16 lifetime against Hernandez. ... Daniel Murphy recorded the sixth three-hit game of his career on Wednesday.

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Up next
• Friday: Rays (Andy Sonnanstine, 5-6, 6.65) at Mets (Fernando Nieve, 1-0, 2.08), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Rays (James Shields, 5-5, 3.52) at Mets (Johan Santana, 8-4, 3.29), 4:10 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Rays (Jeff Niemann, 6-4, 4.21) at Mets (Mike Pelfrey, 5-2, 4.56), 1:10 p.m. ET

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.