The Mets on Friday beat the Phillies 5-1 and in doing so clinched at least a tie for an NL wild card berth. Heavily aiding that critical win was outfielder and prominent non-waiver deadline addition Jay Bruce. Against the Phils on Friday, Bruce went 3 for 4 with three RBI. Among those three hits was his 33rd homer of the season. He's now batting a respectable .249/.307/.507 on the year.
Overall, Bruce's numbers are held up by his performance in Cincinnati, prior to the Aug. 1 trade that brought him to Queens. For instance, as recently as Sept. 22, Bruce had a dismal post-trade line of .174/.252/.285 in 42 games with the Mets. Suffice it to say, that's not what you want from a bat-only corner defender.
To be sure, Bruce was likely to experience some superficial decline in going from playing home games at the Great American Ball Park to playing them in Citi Field. Those depths, though, go well beyond any park adjustments.
Lately, Bruce has come around. Counting Friday night's efforts, he's now 10 for his last 21 with five home runs over that span. Obviously, we're talking about a tiny sample size (to be fair, his entire Mets tenure constitutes a deficient sample size), but the reality is that the Mets are finally getting power outputs from Bruce. It's also coming at just the right time.
Let it be said, though, that Bruce's surge has coincided with a soft stretch of schedule. Since Bruce heated up, he and the Mets have faced the Phillies three times and the grief-stricken Marlins three times. So that's likely a factor.
In any case, over this brief span, Bruce has ramped up significantly his rate of hard-hit balls. It's unwise to take away too much from such a brief span, but perhaps that's something. During his time with the Mets as a whole, many of his fundamental batted ball indicators are almost precisely in line with what they were before the trade. What's driven his struggles are a depressed batting average on balls in play and a downturn in his percentage of fly balls that turn into home runs. The former is likely just bad luck, while the latter has been perhaps an over-correction.
Bruce obviously isn't going to continue sizzling as much as he has over the past handful of games, but with the Mets likely headed to the postseason, they'll take any signs of vintage Bruce they can get.