Jay Bruce doesn’t need to hear boos to know how he has performed this season.
“I haven’t been good this year,” he said. “That’s just the bottom line. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it.”
That trend continued Sunday afternoon. Bruce, signed to a three-year, $39 million contract in the offseason, continued to struggle at the plate, leaving four men on base in four hitless at-bats. He also contributed an ugly opposing miscue that permitted the Cubs to score a run in their 2-0, sweep-capping victory over the Mets at Citi Field.
With Willson Contreras on third base and one out in the seventh inning, Ben Zobrist lofted a shallow popup to right field. Luis Guillorme ranged into the outfield as Bruce ambled in. Bruce never called off Guillorme, who made the catch as he backpedaled, enabling Contreras to score the game’s second run.
“It looked terrible,” Bruce said, accepting blame. “I have to be better. If I’m not sure he’s under it, I have to call him off.”
Said manager Mickey Callaway: “The guy doesn’t even try to run if Bruce catches it.”
Bruce said he didn’t call off Guillorme because he thought the infielder was under the ball. But the ball kept drifting, and by then it was too late. The miscue led to the run.
“That’s a play I have to do a better job of getting there and staying with the play longer,” the 31-year-old Bruce said. “From my view, he was under it and it was a pretty routine popup, but it just carried out longer. I assumed he was under it, and I was watching the runner.”
The bigger problem, though, for the Mets and Bruce, are his issues at the plate, where he is being paid handsomely to produce. But through 54 games, he has just three home runs, 15 RBIs and an anemic .227/.300/.348 slash line. His .648 OPS would be a career low.
“He just can’t get things going, whether it’s at the plate and then it’s in the field,” Callaway said. “It just hasn’t come for him. All the stuff at the plate, we’ve been digging deep at it. He’s doing a best job of not chasing [bad pitches]. All of his other rates are kind of in line with what he’s done in his career. The hits just haven’t been coming.
“In the field, I think that what’s happening is the frustration of how the season is going for him maybe appears into play a little bit.”
Bruce doesn’t trust that’s the case, but he wouldn’t completely dismiss it either.
“I expect so much more out of myself,” he said. “It’s frustrating when you don’t play well. That’s all there is to it.”