The New York Mets got out the brooms against the Tampa Bay Rays in a resounding sweep in Florida, but even in their 7-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night, two of the three most intriguing Mets players of the week were up to some good.
The first slot belongs to a Mets player who was not in action on Friday, but whose recent mastery on the mound has turned plenty of heads.
On Wednesday, R.A. Dickey became the first pitcher to reach 10 wins this season (he is 10-1 overall), and he broke the Mets' franchise record for pitching 32 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings. He also now leads the league in strike percentage (an astounding accomplishment for a knuckleballer).
His play lately appears both mystical and cerebral. Those kuckleballs have looked as illusive to hitters as they have been elusive. Behind Dickey's magic tricks, though, is a sharp intellect that has helped him find perfect placement and varied velocities to get batters out on a stunningly consistent basis.
On the other side of the mound, rookie Met outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis is beginning to give opposing pitchers their own head-scratching problems.
Nieuwenhuis has six home runs for the season, but he is rolling, with three in the last two days.
He is also eager to share any wisdom he gleans from his at-bats. After Nieuwenhuis had turned on an inside pitch for a home run against Reds hurler Bronson Arroyo, cameras caught him demonstrating to fellow lefty hitter Ike Davis the degree of movement on Arroyo's cutter.
It might have been a coincidence, but Davis hit a single in his first at-bat after the Nieuwenhuis-prepping. And as all Met fans know, hits have not come easy to the Mets young first baseman this season.
If in May you landed on a Mets' game after channel surfing, you might have thought you had stumbled upon reruns of Lost.
Davis looked bewildered, swinging early at any junk that pitcher's would feed him. He didn't connect on nearly enough of those changeups and curveballs to fatten his rale-thin batting average.
Davis's hitting woes made him look destined for a demotion to the minors.
But buoyed by Collins's assurance that the club would ride out the slump, Davis maintained unflappable good humor, perpetual cheer for his teammates and fine fielding at first base while he waited for his bat to come back to life.
Davis has hit a torrid 9-for-16 in his past six games.
His recent resurgence at the plate is just one inspirational tale on a club that has already provided much more to cheer about than most baseball analysts predicted for this season. And every week, the Mets seem to have a new set of protagonists to forward a plot that fans hope will conclude some time after October 24.
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