Lucas Duda's defensive gem (!) preserves Mets' Subway Series opening win
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The subject of Lucas Duda's defense is usually the stuff of comedy — or tragedy, depending upon your rooting interests — but the Mets first baseman came up big to help seal a 9-7 win in Monday night's Subway Series opener in the Bronx. With one out and the tying run on first base in the bottom of the ninth inning, he made a diving stop of a Brian McCann grounder, then recovered to start a game-ending double play. Note that David Wright was covering second base on the shift for McCann, making it one of the rarely-seen 3-5-3 variety.
Duda's save ended a three-hour and 34-minute game that featured 28 hits, including five homers — four by the Mets, who overcame deficits of 4-1 and 7-4. Starters Hiroki Kuroda and Bartolo Colon combined to allow 11 runs (10 earned) in 11 2/3 innings, but while the Mets bullpen delivered four innings of scoreless work, the Yankees bullpen yielded five runs in three innings. Even with a lead, manager Joe Girardi didn't call on any of his top four relievers, closer David Robertson, setup men Adam Warren and Shawn Kelley, or middle reliever Dellin Betances. Warren threw 42 pitches over 1 2/3 innings and took the loss in Sunday's game in Milwaukee, and Betances threw 2 2/3 innings and 28 pitches in appearances on Saturday and Sunday, while Kelley remained out due to a back problem. Indeed, the threadbare nature of the Yankees' roster would be a recurring theme later in the game.
The first homer of the night came in the second inning, when Brett Gardner's grand slam off Colon gave the Yankees a 4-1 lead. A solo homer off Kuroda by Travis d'Arnaud in the third and then a two-run shot by Curtis Granderson — playing his first game in the Bronx since signing a four-year deal with the Mets this past December — in the sixth knotted things. Here's Granderson's shot, which like 51 of the previous 64 he hit for the Yankees in the Bronx went to rightfield:
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Aided by a Kelly Johnson triple and a throwing error from d'Arnaud on Gardner's stolen base attempt, the Yankees rallied for three runs in the sixth off a flagging Colon, but from there it was all Mets. Eric Young Jr. ht a two-run shot off Alfredo Aceves in the seventh, and after Duda tied the game with an RBI single off Matt Thornton in the eight, Preston Claiborne came in and served up a two-run shot to Chris Young on his second pitch of the night.
The Yankees threatened to score in the ninth against closer (and ex-Yankee) Kyle Farnsworth. Derek Jeter worked a leadoff walk, and after Jacoby Ellsbury flied out, Mark Teixeira came in to pinch-hit for John Ryan Murphy. Teixeira had smashed a game-tying home run in the ninth inning on Sunday but was out of the lineup on Monday due to legs that felt "like two cement blocks," while Murphy himself had pinch-hit for Carlos Beltran in the seventh after the latter left the game due to a hyperextended right elbow.
Teixeira got ahead 3-1, then roped a pitch towards the rightfield corner. On two good legs, he would have had an easy double, but given his recent leg issues (an April DL stint for a hamstring strain, and recent groin tightness), he had to stop at first, with Jeter taking third. With Ichiro Suzuki unavailable to pinch run due to back pain, Girardi called on Brendan Ryan, but he didn't get far; McCann got ahead 2-0 but once he made contact, Duda made his outstanding stop to preserve the win.
About Duda's defense: to be fair, he's a much different player at first base than the outfield, particularly when it comes to the numbers. In 234 games in left and right field, roughly a season and a half worth of playing time, he is a staggering 43 runs below average according to Defensive Runs Saved, and 49 runs below average according to Ultimate Zone Rating, which you can understand better after watching this:
Despite hitting a combined .250/.348/.425 for a 116 OPS+ from 2011-2013, Duda tallied −0.6 Wins Above Replacement for those years due to his misadventures in the outfield. While his time at first base didn't begin auspiciously — he failed to cover the bag in his second start, ending Matt Harvey's no-hit bid — he's come a long way since. Through 111 career games there prior to Monday night, he was just three runs below average according to DRS, and one run below average via UZR. He no doubt bumped that higher with Monday's game-ending play.