07/06/12 8:40 PM ET
Tejada showing discipline with two strikes
By Adam Rosenbloom / MLB.com
Since the start of 2011, Ruben Tejada boasts a .337 on-base percentage in any two-strike situation, which entering Friday, trailed only Toronto's Jose Bautista (.340). At just 22 years old, Tejada is proving he is one of baseball's most disciplined hitters.
"He's never been a big free-swinger, he's always had discipline at the plate," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "It's something that he certainly has a feel for, and it goes to show the other guys that if you do fight, you do get up there and grind out an at-bat and have some plate discipline, you can get on base."
Tejada's ninth-inning at-bat in Thursday's come-from-behind win over the Phillies served as a perfect example. Against closer Jonathan Papelbon, Tejada drew a two-out walk on a full count, ultimately setting up Daniel Murphy's game-tying single in the next at-bat followed by David Wright's game-winner.
"It's a formula that you try to teach, that you've got to battle with two strikes," Collins said. "You've got to foul off some pitches that are borderline, you try to at least get the bat on them. You've got to really have knowledge of the strike zone. But to teach it and to have it get through are two different things, and to him, he bought into it and he's done it."
Nieuwenhuis gets the start against lefty pitcher
NEW YORK -- Kirk Nieuwenhuis started in center field on Friday with left-hander Travis Wood on the mound for the Cubs. Not the most favorable matchup.
The left-hand-hitting Nieuwenhuis has struggled against southpaws this season -- he was hitting .172 against lefties in 58 at-bats entering Friday's game, including 26 strikeouts. Coming into Friday's start, lefties were hitting just .115 against Wood.
But with Andres Torres still bothered by back spasms -- he's listed as day to day -- manager Terry Collins didn't have many other options.
"One of the things with [Nieuwenhuis] is that he can go through these stages," Collins said. "For some reason, all of a sudden, he doesn't necessarily change his swing, but he gets in this thing where he's not seeing the ball real good so he just misses it."
Collins has mixed and matched lineups this season in accordance with opposing pitchers, but he is down to two right-handed hitters with Torres unavailable and Jason Bay still recovering from a concussion.
"You've got to make some adjustments," Collins said of Nieuwenhuis. "Take right field out of it sometimes and think about letting the ball get deep and seeing the ball more.
"In order to hit, you've got to keep your eyes behind the ball, same thing with fielding. When that bat gets out there, you've just got to keep your head behind the ball if you can."
Nieuwenhuis' struggles might not be so blaring if the rest of the Mets' roster was having success against southpaws, but the team as a whole is hitting more than 20 points better against right-handers.
Jeff Samardzija and Ryan Dempster, both right-handers, are expected to start for the Cubs on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
Thole not worried about collisions at the plate
NEW YORK -- When Phillies second baseman Mike Fontenot barreled over Mets catcher Josh Thole in the eighth inning on Thursday, manager Terry Collins was admittedly nervous.
Thole has already sustained two concussions in his career -- one this season. Since returning from the disabled list June 1, Thole has worn a hockey style mask behind the plate, which offers added protection and padding.
"Those masks aren't easy to discard, so I think that'll help Josh a lot," Collins said.
Thole's play on Thursday -- Fontenot was thrown out at home on a throw from Scott Hairston -- ultimately proved to be the biggest defensive play of the game as the Mets overcame a Philadelphia lead in the bottom of the ninth to win 6-5.
"If I start being worried about something like that, you lose credibility with your teammates, and in that situation, you lose the game," Thole said about being cautious during collisions. "We would have had to push another run across the plate, because now we're down by two."
Thole said that despite his concussions, he has no intentions on changing his style of play.
"It's part of the game, I expect that any time I go back there," he said.
Outfielder Jason Bay will take batting practice, run and do defensive drills Saturday, and he could appear in a rehab game Sunday with Class A Advanced Port St. Lucie, where manager Terry Collins hopes Bay will play two or three games before moving to Triple-A Buffalo. He is on the disabled list with a concussion sustained when he collided with the left-field wall on June 15, and Collins said Bay will return to left field and the Mets' lineup upon his return, despite his struggles at the plate.
David Wright had two four-RBI games in the Mets' three-game set against Philadelphia, becoming the first player in team history to have a pair of four-RBI games in a series against the Phillies.
Just one day after being optioned to Triple-A Buffalo, reliever Jeremy Hefner tossed four shutout innings of relief in the Bisons' 9-8 14-inning win over Syracuse.
Adam Rosenbloom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.