Lucas Duda answers manager's demand to produce or sit

NEW YORK -- One week ago, New York Mets manager Terry Collins delivered a stern yet supportive message to Lucas Duda in the wake of the acquisitions of Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe from the Atlanta Braves: Perform or take a seat on the bench.

"Listen, we've got to start producing some runs, or we've got to find somebody else," Collins told Duda.

"I got it," Duda replied to his manager.

Message certainly received.

Duda homered twice and drove in all three runs as the Mets pulled to within a game of first place with a 3-2 win against the Washington Nationals on Saturday night at sold-out Citi Field. The performance continued a seven-game stretch during which Duda has now bashed eight homers.

"He said, ‘Go in there and be yourself,'" Duda recalled.

Said Collins: "I always thought he was going to have a good second half. … But he's taken it to heart. He's a tremendous worker and wants to be good. He's showing everybody what he can be."

Despite Duda having launched a pair of solo homers in the game already, Nats manager Matt Williams elected to have left-hander Matt Thornton intentionally walk newcomer Yoenis Cespedes with first base open to face Duda in the eighth. Duda answered with a double that drove home Curtis Granderson from second base with the tiebreaking run.

"I wasn't sure what he was going to do," Duda said about the intentional-walk decision. "I really take the ego out of it. … He's tough on lefties, so I was just trying to put the ball in play and put a good swing on it."

Said Collins: "I've been in Matt [Williams]'s shoes, and that's not a good feeling. You've got a guy we've brought in -- and obviously one of the great hitters in the game -- and you've got to walk him to face a guy who is red hot. That's a tough situation."

Before his eight-homer binge in the past seven games, Duda had been hitting .154 (18-for-117) since June 16.

Now he has 20 homers. He is the first Met with at least two straight seasons at that plateau since Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and David Wright all reached the mark in 2008.

"I feel much better than I did a month ago," Duda said.