Tuesday, June 28, 2011 Updated: June 29, 11:02 AM ET
Mets need this Jason Bay to stay
By Rob Parker ESPNNewYork.com
DETROIT -- We know it's just a blip.
But, in reality, Jason Bay hitting home runs has to be a trend.
Bay went yard Tuesday night in Motown. His fourth-inning grand slam gave the Mets a 9-0 lead en route to a 14-3 laugher over the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
The only thing better than the Mets (40-39) climbing over .500 for the first time this season since they were 3-2 was that it was Bay's second home run in a week. The last time that happened felt like never.
Jason Bay has hit two homers in the span of a week. When was the last time you could say that?
"I'm thrilled for him," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Nobody cares more to be successful, to help this team than Jason Bay does.
"That was a huge swing for him tonight."
Bay drilled a 3-1 pitch from Tigers lefty Daniel Schlereth over the left field wall, just inside the foul pole. "I was looking for a fastball that I can get and I got it," said Bay, who has four homers on the season. "I almost pulled it foul but kept it fair enough. I knew I hit it well enough to go."
But Bay, who is batting .234 with 20 RBIs, has to get back in the business of hitting home runs. Hitting 1.3 homers a month isn't going to cut it.
He's on pace to hit eight. Last season, he hit an embarrassing six.
This wasn't what the Mets were looking for when they broke the bank to snatch him from the Boston Red Sox with a four-year, $66 million deal.
If the Mets are going to hang in this wild-card race -- because they are not going to win the National League East from the Philadelphia Phillies -- they are going to need more than Jose Reyes' season to remember. They are going to need some long balls from Bay.
For a stretch this season, it was just painful to watch Bay hit. With every weak grounder or strikeout, fans had to feel nothing but disgust. On June 21 against Oakland, Bay hit a solo home run. It ended a 104 at-bat homerless streak. It also stopped a career-long string of 89 at-bats, dating to May 20, without an extra-base hit.
"We need Jason Bay to be on the field every day," Reyes said. "We don't worry about him. We don't worry about nobody to hit home runs. Right now, we're playing good and we're going to continue to play that way."
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Recently, Bay has started to hit again. In his last 14 games, he's batting .298. He had two three-hit games in a four-game span. "Sometimes, you get lost physically," Carlos Beltran said. "Sometimes, you get lost mentally. Watching him at the plate right now, he looks like he has a good approach. You're just happy to be able to see him help out in the lineup."
Coming into the season, the Mets could only hope that Bay would have been able to bounce back from last season's disaster at the plate and have a good first half. The hope would be that he would make himself attractive to a playoff-contending club that needed a right-handed slugger. That way the Mets could, somehow, get rid of this free-agent mistake.
One of the biggest head scratchers in baseball is what has happened to Bay. A masher at Fenway Park for the Red Sox two years ago with 36 home runs and 119 RBIs, Bay struggled to six in 2010 before being injured in late July and being lost for the season. At Citi Field, he batted .277 with three homers. On the road, he batted a woeful .243.
"He's just so steadfast in his pursuit to get better," starter and winner R. A. Dickey said about Bay, who started the season late after being on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left rib cage. "The public doesn't get to see what's behind the scenes. The guy is a tireless worker and never complains about a dang gone thing. So it's nice to see him get a payoff for all the hard work."
Bay was supposed to come to the Big Apple to be the cleanup man. This season, batting fourth, he's hitting .215. And while his ship has likely sailed, maybe Bay can provide the Mets with some much-needed power -- just like he finally did Tuesday night.
"Ultimately, you want results," Bay said. "If you go out there and line out three times, you don't feel as good as you do if you hit three bleeders and you got three hits.
"It's nice to get the results. And for me, it starts with getting the line drives, getting the base hits, getting comfortable there and then being able to relax a little bit and then find the power stroke. It's not something you just kind of wander your way into and bang there it is."
Let's hope it stays around awhile.