Sports

Mets Defeat Astros In Last National League Meeting

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Marvin Gonzalez, Kelly Shopach (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Marvin Gonzalez, Kelly Shopach (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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By HOWIE RUMBERG. AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) _ Lucas Duda was recalled from the minor leagues
to provide some pop in a scuffling lineup. Surprisingly, it was his
play in the outfield that helped the most in his first game back.

The new left fielder cut down a runner at the plate to preserve
a tie in the ninth inning, then Ike Davis hit his second homer of
the day with one out in the bottom half, lifting the New York Mets
over the Houston Astros 2-1 on Sunday.

“It was a great throw by Duda, giving us a chance to keep it
tied,” catcher Kelly Shoppach said of his teammate, who is often
criticized for being a sub-par outfielder.

The Mets took two of three from the last-place Astros for their
first home series win since early July.

Rookies Jeremy Hefner and Lucas Harrell engaged in a crisp duel
for seven innings. Hefner took a shutout into the ninth before
giving up a tying double to Marwin Gonzalez.

Gonzalez then tried to score on Ben Francisco’s single off Bobby
Parnell (3-3) and Duda, brought up from Triple-A Buffalo earlier in
the day, made a strong throw home.

Shoppach took Duda’s slightly high throw and stuck his left leg
out to block the plate. Gonzalez tried to slide around him and
reach back for the plate, but Shoppach used his body to prevent
Gonzalez from slipping in a hand. Gonzalez jumped up and slammed
his helmet down after being called out. He was ejected by home
plate umpire Dave Rackley.

“It was a bang-bang play. The umpire got it right but I thought
it could have went either way,” Astros interim manager Tony
DeFrancesco said. “It was a heck of a play by the catcher
squashing him off the plate.”

Davis’ drive off Wilton Lopez (5-2) just cleared the top of the
right-field wall– and the glove of a leaping Francisco– for the
second game-ending homer of his career _ a homer under the new Citi
Field dimensions. He took a leaping 360-degree spin into his
awaiting teammates at the plate.

“I thought I hit it a little better than I did. Outfielder kind
of deked me a little bit,” Davis said. “Thought I’d look like a
fool because I didn’t run out of the box. … First one I got
pretty good.”

Davis connected off Harrell leading off the fourth, launching a
shot about halfway up the second deck in right to help the Mets
snap a skid of six straight series losses at Citi Field. Since
taking two of three from Philadelphia July 3-5, New York has gone
5-16 at home.

Batting .199 on July 4, Davis has lifted his average to .223 and
he has 24 homers this season.

The Mets took two of three in the final series at Citi Field
with Houston being a National League team. The Astros join the AL
West next season.

At Buffalo, Duda worked on playing in left field after starting
80 games in the right for New York. Often looking lost in the field
before he was sent down on July 24 because he was slumping at the
plate, Duda couldn’t come up with a difficult catch in the ninth
that allowed Houston to tie it 1-all, spoiling Hefner’s fine
outing.

“I thought he looked great out there. He looks comfortable,”
manager Terry Collins said. “As far as that ball goes, he ran a
long way for that ball. And any time you dive toward that wall,
there’s issues. I thought he did fine. Of course, he made a great
throw, too.”

Said Duda: “I’m not going to be a Gold Glover in left because I
switched positions.”

Pinch-hitter Jose Altuve led off the ninth with a single and
Mets manager Terry Collins chose to leave Hefner in. Gonzalez then
hit a low liner down the left-field line. Duda made the long run
and the ball hit of his glove as he tried to make the catch and
avoid hitting the wall.

Altuve scored and Gonzalez landed on second base chasing Hefner.

“Jeremy pitched a great game,” Collins said. “That’s why he
deserved to go out there in the ninth inning.”

Hefner made seven career starts coming in and had little
success, going 2-4 with a 5.63 ERA. He was again added to the Mets
rotation a week ago when they expanded to a six-man staff. In his
first outing, he gave up five runs over five innings in a loss at
Washington.

This time he was dominant against a team with a league-low .238
average, giving up a run and five hits in eight-plus innings. He
struck out seven.

Hefner received a nice ovation from the 25,071 when he batted in
the eighth inning with Shoppach on first base. Hefner sacrificed
him to second and returned to the dugout to another round of
applause.

Harrell came in the leader in innings pitched for rookies and
had won 25 percent of the Astros’ 40 games. He was second to Wade
Miley in wins for rookies in the NL and led the league with 151 1-3
innings pitched.

He showed how good he was Sunday, giving up two hits and a run
with four of his seven strikeouts coming with the batter caught
looking.

NOTES: Duda went 0 for 2 with a walk. … The Mets optioned OF
Jordany Valdespin to Buffalo. Valdespin has five pinch-hit homers,
most in a season by a Mets player. … RHP Armando Galarraga has
chosen to become a free agent rather than accepting an assignment
to the minors after being designated for assignment by the Astros
last week. … Astros OF Justin Maxwell missed his fifth
consecutive start with a bruised right index finger. He will see a
doctor Monday and could be headed to the disabled list. … Mets 2B
Daniel Murphy has a posterior strain in right shoulder. He will
have an MRI on Monday. He first felt it on the bench before his
at-bat in the eighth inning.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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