MIAMI -- Though John Buck made a critical out in the eighth inning of Tuesday's 4-2 win over the Marlins, grounding to the left side with Marlon Byrd on third base and one out, he came away from it about as pleased as a player can be with an unsuccessful at-bat. As manager Terry Collins put it, "All you're asking him to do is hit the ball hard someplace, and he did it."
So Buck did not change a thing when he came to the plate two innings later with the bases loaded and no outs. Looking to shoot a ball back up the middle, Buck did precisely that with a Steve Cishek sinker, driving in two runs to put the Mets ahead for good.
"That's the stuff we've got to do to win games," Collins said. "When they're giving you those runs out there, we've got to drive them in. That's how we're going to stay hot."
It has not always been so easy this season for Buck, whose torrid start to the season gave way to a .178/.259/.297 slash line from April 16 through July 5 -- nearly half a season's worth of at-bats. But since that time, Buck has hit .302 with 14 RBIs in 14 games, once again resembling the player he was in early April.
"Sure, why not?" Buck said when asked if Tuesday's go-ahead hit can be a building block for him. "I feel like I've been swinging the bat pretty good lately. Even the last game or two, I still felt pretty good in some of those at-bats. More or less, I'm going to stick with the approach that's going [well] -- hit it up the middle and the other way ... and be productive."
Byrd deal unlikely as Mets want to stay competitive
MIAMI -- From a sheer business standpoint, it would make sense for the Mets to trade Marlon Byrd prior to Wednesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. Because the Mets are extreme long shots to make the postseason, and because Byrd will be a free agent in November, the Mets would benefit from dealing him for just about anything.
But manager Terry Collins on Tuesday explained why Byrd is unlikely to go anywhere prior to the Deadline, saying: "We owe our fans some competition, too."
"We're trying to win games here," Collins said. "We're not just throwing the season away."
Collins was quick to note that if the Mets do receive a tempting offer for Byrd and pull the trigger, his players will understand that it would be in the best interest of the organization. He remembers having to comfort his club after general manager Sandy Alderson dealt Carlos Beltran at the Deadline in 2011, knowing it meant fewer wins for a scuffling club down the stretch.
All that trade did was land pitcher Zack Wheeler, who started Tuesday against the Marlins and represents one of the organization's brightest hopes for the future.
"You look at the situation since I've been here, we've moved some pieces," Collins said, referencing Byrd's career resurrection during winter ball in Mexico. "In Marlon's case, he's driven to prove to people he can still play. I think that's why you saw what he did all last year, all winter long, all Spring Training long, and how he's competing now. He's driven to make sure everybody still knows he still has life in him. That's a tribute to him."
Entering Tuesday's play tied for ninth in the National League with 17 home runs, Byrd was batting .280 overall and .327 in July. His desire was evident the night before, when he scored from first on Ike Davis' double to right field, narrowly beating the relay throw and leaping up with emotion when umpire Andy Fletcher ruled him safe.
It is the type of production that could obviously help a contender, and the Mets realize that. But they also value being competitive down the stretch, even if it is only the difference between finishing in third place or fourth.
"We're very, very proud of the way Marlon's played," Collins said. "Where we sit today, we owe a lot to the fact that he's stepped up and done what he's done offensively for us."