BY JOE RINI
When Mets infielder Justin Turner singled in two runs with two outs in the first inning of Friday’s 6 to 4 victory over the Yankees, it continued a trend that has helped fuel the Mets rise from preseason pessimism to midseason contention. Clutch hitting with men in scoring position and two outs has compensated for a lack of homerun firepower, with the Mets batting .277 and scoring a major league leading 161 runs in these situations. Turner, with his .462 average and 8 RBI in 13 at bats in such moments, has been a key contributor.
Turner, who’s batting .257 overall this season, said he “bears down” and tries to take a “short swing and go the other way on a good pitch,” in these situations. Since being called up by the Mets in April of 2011, Turner has excelled with runners in scoring position and two outs, hitting .364 in these spots last season.
In setting a Mets rookie record by driving in at least one run in seven consecutive games in May 2011, Turner became only the third major league player since 1961 to record such a streak within his first 50 major league games.
With the departure of some bigger name players in the past couple of years, Turner described the 2012 Mets, lead by manager Terry Collins and veterans David Wright and Johan Santana, as a “group effort… we pull together…we pick each other up…we get excited together.” Noting that manager Terry Collins likes to “mix and match” players, Turner tries to make the most of his opportunities. Turner called playing for Collins “awesome,” and said he is “fiery and intense” and demands that from his players, as well.
Turner enjoys interacting with fans on Twitter and senses a growing excitement among them about the team when he meets them and sees the increased number of fans sporting Mets caps around the city. Turner said the fans excitement during the Johan Santana no hitter was evident as the game progressed and the no hitter could not have happened to a better person considering everything Santana overcame to return from shoulder surgery. “It’s been huge to have him back,” he declared.
The Mets enter play on Wednesday in third place in the National League East with a record of 39 and 36, a game behind second place Atlanta and 4 1⁄2 games behind division leading Washington. This past weekend featured three exciting games against the Yankees at Citi Field with the Bronx Bombers taking two of three.
R.A. Dickey saw his streak of 44 2/3 innings without an earned run end in Sunday’s 6-5 loss although he did not figure in the decision. Perhaps a letdown from the Yankee series followed by a late night/early morning flight to Chicago seemed to contribute to two sluggish losses against the Cubs on Monday and Tuesday.
The more significant loss for the Mets occurred when closer Frank Francisco was placed on the 15 day disabled list on Sunday with a left oblique strain. Despite some shaky moments earlier this season, Francisco has 18 saves and has only allowed two runs in his last 14 appearances. Hard throwing righthander Bobby Parnell was designated as the new closer with increased roles for Miguel Batista, Jon Rauch, and Ramon Ramirez as seventh and eighth inning setup men.
Speaking of his injured closer and its effect on the bullpen, Terry Collins stated, “When you lose that guy, now it disrupts all the little pieces that you had in place to get there. It puts guys in different roles and different situations, and it can really affect you. But we’re going to have to deal with it.”