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Hidalgo is spark Mets needed
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07/04/2004 8:43 PM ET
Hidalgo is spark Mets needed
Right fielder has converted lineup into a threat
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
Since joining the Mets on June 17, Richard Hidalgo has hit seven home runs in 15 games. (Bill Kostroun/AP)
• Hidalgo homers in four straight games:  56K | 350K

NEW YORK -- That the Mets needed another bat in their lineup if they had any hopes of contending in the National League East was not exactly a state secret.

Teams had been pitching around Mike Piazza, disrespecting Cliff Floyd and generally having their way with the bottom third of New York's lineup. That all changed, though, when general manager Jim Duquette acquired Richard Hidalgo from the Astros on June 17.

The Mets' offense has begun to sizzle and Hidalgo has been at the heart of the resurgence, stepping into the fifth spot in the batting order while returning to the form that made him one of the more feared hitters in the National League just two years ago.

New York's recently unveiled high-octane offense was in full gear this weekend against the Yankees. Art Howe's team hit nine homers and scored 27 runs, the most it had scored in a series, three or four games, this season. It also marked the most runs the Yankees had given up in a series, regardless of its length.

The Mets were averaging 4.16 runs per game before Hidalgo's arrival, but have scored an average of 5.53 runs since. Overall, the output now stands at 4.4 runs per game.

"I hate to put so much emphasis on one player, but Hidalgo is huge," Howe said. "We started clicking as a unit. And we showed that again today. Now they have to pitch to everyone in the lineup. Everyone is a force. We sent a message to everyone in baseball [this weekend]. We're starting to swing it."

Hidalgo hit another home run on Sunday, the fourth game in a row he has gone deep, tying a career and club high. He also hit homers in four consecutive games from Sept. 19-22, 2000, the year he hit a career-high 44 home runs with Houston. He became the ninth Met and first since Edgardo Alfonzo (Aug. 23-26, 2001) to turn the trick.

Mets who have hit homers in four consecutive games
Richard Hidalgo 07/01/2004 - Present
Edgardo Alfonzo 04/23/2001 - 04/26/2001
Mike Piazza 08/13/1999 - 08/16/1999
Mike Piazza 05/17/1999 - 05/21/1999
Bobby Bonilla 08/19/1992 - 08/23/1992
Dave Kingman 05/25/1981 - 05/29/1981
Lee Mazzilli 07/01/1980 - 07/04/1980
Ron Swoboda 04/19/1968 - 04/21/1968
Larry Elliott 07/21/1964 - 07/24/1964

"I'm just focusing on every pitch," said Hidalgo, who has a seven-game hitting streak during which he is hitting .520 (13-for-25) with six homers and eight RBIs. "This is as good a stretch as I've ever been in. I feel pretty good. I just have to keep working hard. I'm doing all the little things I need to do.

"I feel confident now and I'm doing some pretty good hitting here. I'm so happy to be here, just coming to the park every day makes me feel good."

Hidalgo had been hitting .256 with Houston and saw his homerless streak reach 175 at-bats before blasting his first homer as a Met on June 20. He hasn't cooled off since.

"I don't think you can put into words what he's been able to do for us," said Ty Wigginton, who had two homers on Sunday. "The damage 'Dalgy has been able to do, it seems every time he's up there, he's able to get the big knock. And when he gets up there with no one on, he brings himself in."

Hidalgo has paced the Mets on a home run barrage. New York has 20 round-trippers in its last seven games, with eight different players going yard over that stretch. Thirty-three of the Mets' last 47 runs have come via the homer.

"They have to continue to throw me strikes now," Floyd said. "He's swinging the bat really well now, so they have to make sure I get good pitches. They don't want to face him. When you feel good at the plate, everything flows, and we're all swinging the bat well now. So pick your poison."

When the Mets landed Hidalgo, they indicated that they had seen a flaw in his approach at the plate, which they felt was easily correctable. Hitting coach Don Baylor, after watching Hidalgo in person and on tape, believed that the short porch in left at Minute Maid Park was causing Hidalgo to try and pull the ball, consciously or subconsciously.

Hidalgo denies he was trying to continuously ring it off the wall in left while in Houston, saying that he simply was having a bad stretch.

"That wall in Minute Maid Park reminded me a lot of Fenway Park," Baylor said. "Right-handed hitters see that wall and become pull-conscious. That's what his stroke looked like to me. He's not jumping at pitches now like he was. He's swinging at strikes.

"The No. 5 guy never gets a lot of credit along with the three or four or No. 1 guy. But he's given some relief to Cliff and we have another person behind Piazza."

Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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