Notes: Mets in search of Wright stuff
El Duque ready if Mets reach World Series; waiting on Floyd
ST. LOUIS -- In pursuit of the right stuff for Game 4 of the National League Championship Series on Sunday night at Busch Stadium, the Mets and manager Willie Randolph were anticipating the return of an essential element: the Wright stuff.After producing 26 homers and 116 runs batted in while batting .311 in the regular season, third baseman David Wright has been conspicuously quiet as the Cardinals have forged a 2-1 series lead. The third baseman was 0-for-9 with three walks in the NLCS as he prepared to take his swings against Cardinals right-hander Anthony Reyes in Game 4, with southpaw Oliver Perez carrying New York's hopes. "He's swinging the bat," Randolph said of Wright, his No. 5 hitter. "He's hit balls pretty good. That's why I never look at 0-for-this, 0-for-that; it's very misleading. "David needs to find a few holes, more than anything. For the most part, his at-bats have been pretty good and he's stung a few balls. [Game 4] might be a different story. David's stepped up for me all year long, and he's a dangerous hitter every time he walks to the plate. "Tonight is the night I feel he's going to bust out." Wright was expressing that same level of confidence in the aftermath of Game 3, the Mets having managed only three hits in getting shut out by Jeff Suppan and reliever Josh Kinney. "It's frustrating I'm not doing what I'm capable of [doing]," Wright said. "I'm having some good at-bats. I'm just not having much luck. "There's nobody in here panicking. We're going to regroup, focus. Right now, the Cardinals are playing great baseball. We're not throwing in the towel, by any means. We have a great lineup. We can score some runs in a hurry." Tom Glavine, who has seen his share of young talents come and go, is a big fan of Wright's attitude and approach, along with his talent, naturally. "I'm sure [Wright] will be the first to tell you that he wishes he was hitting a little bit better than he has in this series," said Glavine, who will start Game 5 on short rest. "He's hit some balls hard that haven't found the holes, but you would not know from his demeanor in the clubhouse that he has any concern in his game. He goes out there every night trying to do something special to help us win." Wright had hit in 15 straight games coming into this series -- 12 at the close of the regular season and all three in the NLDS, going 4-for-12 with two doubles and four RBIs in the sweep of the Dodgers. The last time he'd gone three consecutive games without a hit was Aug. 19, 20 and 22, breaking out with a double and two RBIs against St. Louis' Mark Mulder. Wright went four games without a hit only once -- April 29 and 30 against the Braves, and May 1 and 2 against the Nationals. El Duque passes test: In the bullpen before Sunday night's game, Orlando Hernandez cut loose for the first time since injuring his right calf muscle running on Oct. 3 before what was to be his Game 1 start against the Dodgers in the NLDS. Throwing for about 15 minutes from 50 to 60 feet, all from a stretch position, El Duque pronounced himself fit to rejoin the club for "the next round," which would be the World Series if the Mets come back to knock out the Cards. "I'm pretty happy," Hernandez said. "I can come back. If the team has a chance in the next round, I will be ready. "[When] is the World Series, in a week?" he asked, grinning. "I don't feel pain. I feel good."
One of the game's celebrated big-game pitchers, Hernandez is 9-3 in 19 postseason games, 14 as a starter.Offensive slumber: The Mets entered Game 4 having gone 12 2/3 innings since scoring their last run on Paul Lo Duca's RBI double in the sixth inning of Game 2, staking his team to a 6-4 lead that evaporated in a 9-6 loss. The Mets, through three games, were 2-for-17 with runners in scoring position, with homers accounting for six of their eight runs in the series. Carlos Delgado's three-run blast and Jose Reyes' RBI single -- in the first and second innings, respectively, of Game 2 -- were the only New York hits with runners in scoring position. In the regular season, the Mets batted .274 with runners in scoring position.
The Cardinals' pitching staff has done a remarkable job of shutting down postseason offenses in key situations. The Padres were 2-for-32 in the NLDS with runners in scoring position, meaning clubs are 4-for-49 -- a .082 average -- against St. Louis pitching with men on second and third."I still feel like, overall, the guys are swinging the bats pretty good for the most part," Randolph said, in spite of the club's .196 batting average through three games. "Things can change pretty quick. Our guys come to play every day, and we'll find some holes [Sunday night]." Waiting on Floyd: Randolph said it's up to Cliff Floyd to make the decision that he's comfortable enough on his ailing left Achilles tendon -- and the sensitive area running from the ankle to the calf -- to return to left field. Floyd said he continues to improve, "and I'd really like to get out there [for Game 5]." "That's totally up to him," Randolph said. "I can't tell what he's feeling or how he feels. I think he's feeling a little bit better [Sunday]. But it's up to him. "When he comes in and gives me a thumbs up, I'll put him in the lineup after conversing with him on how he feels. Basically, it's what he feels as far as comfort and what he can deal with when he's on the field." Oliver starting candidate: Delighted with Darren Oliver's six scoreless innings of long relief in Game 3 behind Steve Trachsel, Randolph indicated that the veteran lefty would merit serious consideration if the series goes the distance. "Darren has spot-started for us, and that's a possibility," Randolph said. "Obviously, [let's] wait until we get to that point. Yeah, he's done great things for us this year. I love his versatility. We'll wait and see on that." Randolph had nothing new to report on the right thigh injury sustained by Trachsel on a line drive by Preston Wilson in the second inning of Game 2. Strawberry shake: At the request of a Mets official, Darryl Strawberry showed up for Game 4, recalling past exploits at the old Busch Stadium while wistfully mentioning all the smaller ballparks that have surfaced since he departed. "That ball I hit off the clock in the old park," Strawberry said, gazing out toward the scoreboard in the cozier new Busch, "I wonder where that one would have landed here. Man, I wish I could have hit in some of these new bandboxes." Strawberry said he'd try to pass along some encouragement to Mets hitters, "tell them to drop that bat head and let it fly."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.