Mets outfielder Jay Bruce hit two home runs, including the game-winner, and drove in five runs with three hits out of the cleanup spot during Wednesday's 5-4 win over the Phillies.
With the score tied in the eighth inning, Bruce homered on the second pitch from Edubray Ramos, sending the ball just over the right-field wall to give the Mets the lead.
"It's great," Bruce said after the game about his experience so far this season. "Like I said, individually, I don't really take too much time to think about what I'm doing or my success or anything during the season, but it was good to be a huge part of that tonight and get a win for us coming off a tough four-game skid."
In the sixth-inning, he crushed a three-run home run off starter Vince Velasquez, prior to which he also doubled in the first inning that led to Yoenis Cespedes being thrown out at home plate.
"We talked about guys starting the season and not putting a ton of pressure on themselves out of the gate, so we hit him down in the lineup a little bit," Terry Collins said after the game. "I said to him, 'Look, you'll determine where you hit.' And he's hitting where he wants to hit and he certainly deserves to be there. He is the guy we wanted to get. He's a run producer. He's showing it now. We're lucky to have him still here."
For his efforts, Bruce was awarded the team's post-game crown by his teammates, which was accompanied this time with a blue, satin boxing robe.
In 14 games and 55 at-bats this season for the Mets, Bruce is batting .309 and is tied with Cespedes for the team lead in home runs with six.
"It sounds so cliche, but I'm just playing ball, man," Bruce said after the game. "We have a very, very good team that's going to get rolling and I look forward to that."
I'm happy for Jay. He's seemingly a nice man with good intentions who is clearly doing his best and wanting to win, and those are all things I respect. So, when a guy like that gets good results and helps the Mets win, it's all good to me. I also smiled watching him look slightly embarrassed, yet kind of, sort of proud to be a 30-year-old adult male wearing a bejeweled crown and satin boxing robe talking to reporters about playing a kid's game, which, again, is all fine by me... Good for you, man....
It's possible Bruce starts at first base Thursday after Lucas Duda hyperextended his elbow during the game Wednesday. I realize the gig should (and probably will) go to Wilmer Flores, but -- with the way Wilmer has been hitting right-handed pitching -- I don't know that it's a simple choice.
Bruce looked decent playing first base during spring training, or -- I should say -- he looked better than I thought he would look. He actually made a pretty nice scoop on a long throw across the field from Flores. It was a short-hop, but Bruce picked it perfectly. He also did well fielding a ground ball to his right later in the game, which he flipped with ease for an out at first base.
Mar 14, 2017; Jay Bruce fields a ground ball at first base during a spring training gamea at the Ballpark at the Palm Beaches. Credit: Jason Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
All in all, while he's not going to win a Gold Glove, I was pleasantly surprised with his athleticism, awareness and ability to adjust to the speed of the position, which are three things I had clearly not been giving him enough credit for having in his arsenal.
In the end, I'd base this solely on how Bruce feels about his ability to handle the position. If he is ready, I say let him do it. If not, it should 100 percent be Wilmer. It's easy to say, 'Play Bruce, run him out there,' but the reality is that the game moves quick and if he's not ready, the most routine play could end up being botched and cost the game.
In that scenario, I'd rather start Wilmer, despite a right-handed pitcher being on the mound. Bruce is hitting well, and I'd hate to wreck that by challenging him to learn an integral position on the fly. If he's bad in the field, and ends up slumping because of it, it makes Duda's injury that much more painful. On the other hand, as I said, if Bruce is confident in his ability, and Collins and the team's infielders feel the same, by all means let's see what he can do...