Sunday Funday: Mets Walk Off
By MIKE FITZPATRICK
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ Once they got 20-year-old Jose Fernandez out of the game, the New York Mets breathed a sigh of relief and went to work.
Marlon Byrd grounded a two-run single just inside third base in the bottom of the ninth inning and New York rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Miami Marlins on Sunday.
Daniel Murphy homered and Anthony Recker had a run-scoring double for the Mets, who spoiled an impressive major league debut by the Marlins’ prized pitching prospect.
“He’s going to be a good one,” Byrd predicted, saying Fernandez reminded him of Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez. “He’s one of those guys if he’s on, it really doesn’t matter if you’ve seen him or not. He’s going to be electric.”
Justin Ruggiano, Chris Valaika and Donovan Solano (three hits) each had an RBI double off substitute starter Aaron Laffey to give the Marlins an early 3-0 cushion. But closer Steve Cishek (0-1) was unable to hold a one-run lead in the ninth, and Miami dropped to 1-5 heading into its home opener Monday night against Atlanta.
Fernandez, who had never been above Class A, gave up one run and three hits in five innings. He walked one and struck out eight, a record for a Marlins pitcher in his major league debut.
“I was more nervous watching five through nine than when I was pitching,” Fernandez said. “It didn’t feel any different. It was more like a spring training game.”
Cishek retired his first batter in the ninth before Ruben Tejada was hit by a pitch. Pinch-hitter Kirk Nieuwenhuis singled to left-center and Tejada aggressively dashed to third against Juan Pierre’s weak arm. Nieuwenhuis moved up to second on the throw.
Byrd, who entered in a fifth-inning double switch, pulled a grounder just beyond the reach of a diving Valaika and down the left-field line. Both runners scored easily and Byrd was mobbed by excited teammates between first and second after his fifth career game-ending hit and first since a grand slam for Texas against the New York Yankees on Aug. 4, 2008.
“It’s huge to show that we can win close games,” said Byrd, who struck out his first two times up.
Scott Rice (1-0) worked a scoreless ninth for his first big league win after 14 seasons in the minors. New York, outhit 13-6 in the game, took two of three from the Marlins and has won its first two series for only the second time in 11 years.
“It’s all on me,” Cishek said. “It’s my job to go in there and shut it all down.”
Five relievers combined to throw 4 2-3 scoreless innings for the Mets. Miami went 2 for 14 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 overall.
“We hung in there and we didn’t let the game get away, which I thought was the biggest factor,” Mets manager Terry Collins said.
Recker had an RBI double in the fifth, his first hit for the Mets, but Fernandez fanned Byrd and retired Collin Cowgill on a popup to leave the game with a 3-1 lead after 80 pitches.
Miami plans to keep Fernandez on a pitch count all season and limit him to 150-170 innings.
Murphy greeted A.J. Ramos with a leadoff homer to center in the sixth, his second of the series after hitting six last season. Fill-in first baseman Greg Dobbs made a sprawling play later in the inning to keep Miami ahead.
Pitching with his parents in the stands, Fernandez flashed a mid-90s mph fastball and showed advanced command of his sharp breaking ball. He retired his first 10 batters, striking out five, before Murphy lined a single to center.
Murphy said the first time through the lineup against Fernandez was “a fact-finding mission for us as an offense.”
“That guy’s got good stuff,” he said. “I thought we stayed patient. … We were able to kind of get that pitch count up just a little bit to get into their bullpen in the sixth. You get in in the sixth, it gives you four shots at the bullpen and that’s kind of what we’re looking for.”
Fernandez, the youngest pitcher in club history, came to the United States by boat as a Cuban refugee in 2008. The 6-foot-2, 242-pound right-hander was selected 14th overall out of his Tampa, Fla., high school in the 2011 amateur draft _ one pick after the Mets went for outfielder Brandon Nimmo, who is with Class A Savannah in the South Atlantic League.
Fernandez was 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA in the low minors last season. He went to spring training this year with the Marlins but got reassigned to minor league camp March 13 and was ticketed for Double-A Jacksonville before injuries to Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi left two holes in the rotation.
Just before the season opener, Fernandez became a surprise addition to the roster, making him the youngest pitcher on a major league squad on opening day, according to STATS. He left 15 tickets for family and friends to attend his anticipated debut.
Laffey was touched up for 10 hits and three runs over 4 1-3 innings in his National League debut.
The left-hander, a part-time starter for Toronto last season, signed a minor league contract with the Mets and was called up to start Sunday in place of Shaun Marcum (neck), likely to be sidelined for at least two or three turns through the rotation.
NOTES: RHP Kevin Slowey gets the ball for Miami’s home opener Monday night. … To clear roster space for Laffey, the Mets optioned reliever Jeurys Familia to Triple-A Las Vegas and transferred LHP Johan Santana (shoulder surgery) to the 60-day DL. … Mets RHP Matt Harvey, coming off a dominant season debut against San Diego, starts Monday night in Philadelphia against RHP Roy Halladay. … New York has homered in its first six games for the third time in team history (1962 and 1987).