PIT@NYM: deGrom tallies two hits vs. Pirates

ST. LOUIS -- For years at Busch Stadium, former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa made lineup construction an art form, unafraid to do unorthodox things with his starting nine.

Among his most frequent and notorious experiments was batting his pitchers eighth. Mets manager Terry Collins adopted that philosophy Monday night at La Russa's old stomping grounds, hitting a pitcher eighth for the first time in franchise history.

"We just thought today was a good day to try it," Collins said of an experiment that he first conducted this spring.

His reasoning was twofold. First, Monday's starting pitcher, Jacob deGrom, is the staff's best hitter; Collins feels comfortable batting deGrom -- and maybe Jon Niese -- eighth, but no one else on his staff.

Secondly, Collins told Curtis Granderson over the weekend that he would like to bat him leadoff somewhat consistently, at least for now. That meant that if he wanted to insert Eric Young Jr. into the lineup Monday in his first game back from the disabled list, he would need to do it low in the order. Ninth seemed natural.

The goal is that Young will serve as a "second leadoff hitter," creating more RBI opportunities for Daniel Murphy, David Wright and Bobby Abreu.

"You're looking at three very good hitters at 2-3-4 who can hopefully come up with more runners on," Collins said.

For the Mets, the risk is that deGrom finds himself batting in less-than-ideal situations. But Collins is willing to accept that, knowing that if deGrom bats three or four times in a game, "we're winning."

"Surely, there's a possibility that the pitcher's going to come up today with the bases loaded, hitting in the eighth spot," Collins said. "But you know what? It's not a perfect world. You do the best you can at the beginning of the game, because you don't have a crystal ball that's going to tell you what's going to happen during the game. We just thought it was a good day to try it, and we'll see if it works."

While part of Collins' job revolves around the strategy of the game, another part deals with its psychology. To that end, the manager pulled Young aside prior to Monday's game to explain why he was batting ninth instead of eighth.

"I'm all for it," Young said. "When I got in this morning, I didn't even know if I was going to be in there or not. I'm just happy to see my name in there. It will be interesting to see how it works out."

Mets activate Young off DL, option Brown

NYM@WSH: E. Young hits a two-out RBI double to left

ST. LOUIS -- The Mets' fastest player was back on the roster Monday. The team activated Eric Young Jr. from the disabled list, optioning fellow outfielder Andrew Brown to Triple-A Las Vegas.

How much Young gives the Mets beyond raw speed remains to be seen.

"He's got to get on base," manager Terry Collins said. "That's what he does. If he gets on base, we score."

It was Young's speed that tempted Collins into batting him leadoff often this season, ultimately taking starts away from Juan Lagares and Chris Young. But whatever spark Eric Young provided came in tandem with a .315 on-base percentage, sapping much of his value.

Collins batted Young ninth on Monday, promising nothing in regard to future playing time. But with Lagares still on the DL with a strained right intercostal muscle, Chris Young mired in a season-long slump and 40-year-old Bobby Abreu battling the daily effects of age, the opportunity for at-bats exists. Eric Young simply must seize it.

"We'd love him to get more walks, but as we all know, when you're not a home run hitter, you don't walk a lot because pitchers aren't afraid of you," Collins said. "If he starts getting some hits, then it's a different animal. There's no perfect scenario. I just thought today I wanted to get him in there. I wanted to get him back and be a part of this whole thing, and get his speed back in the lineup."

Young stole one base during a four-game Minor League rehab stint, also testing his hamstring on a bunt attempt. He believes his leg is fully healthy.

"I'm pumped," Young said. "I just missed seeing the guys. I can come back in and joke around with them, see some smiles on the faces. I don't know how much they've been smiling the last couple weeks."

Brown hit .182 with two home runs in 19 games, in what was his second big league stint of the season.