NEW YORK (AP) _ Faster was better for Daisuke Matsuzaka.
In a turn-back-the-clock performance, Dice-K allowed two hits over seven innings and the New York Mets got back-to-back homers from Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda to beat the Miami Marlins 3-1 on Saturday night for a doubleheader split.
“I think in general all my pitches are improving,” Matsuzaka said through a translator before acknowledging he made an effort to pick up his pace on the mound. “Trying not to give the batter an opportunity to think about what’s going on or to analyze the situation.”
In the opener, Donovan Solano exacted some payback after he was hit by two pitches, launching a home run and making two terrific defensive plays that sent Henderson Alvarez and the Marlins to a 3-0 victory.
Matsuzaka (1-3) plunked Placido Polanco twice in the nightcap, but other than that the Japanese right-hander was in complete control en route to his first major league win in more than a year.
“Honestly, he’s really easy to work with,” catcher Anthony Recker said. “His location tonight was right on point.”
Pitching one day after his 33rd birthday, Matsuzaka suddenly was a model of efficiency. Working much quicker than before, he threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of 26 batters and needed only 73 pitches to get through six innings.
Coming into the game, the former Red Sox star was averaging 20.6 pitches per inning _ second-most in the majors _ while racking up an 8.00 ERA over four starts with the Mets. His snail-slow pace annoyed opponents and fans alike.
“Obviously, he’s got enough experience to know what it takes to pitch here, but he’d spent most of the year in the minor leagues and I think he was trying to nibble,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “He was just off the plate, he was using a lot of pitches and a lot of 3-2 counts, and therefore every hitter was seeing every pitch. And now they’re not.”
The only hits Matsuzaka gave up were Justin Ruggiano’s 17th homer in the fourth and Adeiny Hechavarria’s two-out single in the seventh. After a visit from pitching coach Dan Warthen, Matsuzaka threw a called third strike past Rob Brantly with runners at the corners.
When the Marlins opened the eighth with a pinch hitter, Matsuzaka walked off to a warm ovation and tipped his cap to the few fans remaining. It was his first big league win since Aug. 27, 2012, with Boston against Kansas City. He entered 1-10 in his past 16 major league starts.
New York signed Matsuzaka last month to fill a hole in its injury-depleted rotation. He spent most of the season in Cleveland’s farm system.
Pedro Feliciano and Vic Black combined on a one-hit eighth. LaTroy Hawkins got three outs for his 10th save.
Murphy and Duda homered to start the third against Jacob Turner (3-7), who fell to 0-6 in his last 11 starts. Duda also hit a three-run shot Friday night that put the Mets ahead to stay.
“That was probably the best I’ve thrown the ball in a while,” Turner said.
Murphy singled in the first and stole second before Wilmer Flores snapped a 1-for-26 slide with an RBI single.
Logan Morrison drove in two runs during the first game, one on a line drive off Frank Francisco’s right hand that knocked the oft-injured reliever out of the game.
“It swelled up pretty fast and pretty big,” Collins said.
Francisco left in obvious pain and was sent for X-rays. The team said he had a bruised hand. The right-hander had been out all season following elbow surgery until he was activated last weekend.
“I thought it was broke for sure,” Francisco said. “Just hope that it goes away soon and I’ll be able to throw as soon as possible.”
Alvarez (4-4) pitched four-hit ball over seven innings for his second win against the Mets this year. The defeat ensured New York’s fifth straight losing season since Citi Field opened.
Steve Cishek struck out three in the ninth for his 30th save in 32 attempts. He has converted 25 in a row.
Carlos Torres (3-5) hit Solano with pitches in his first two plate appearances, the first one near his wrist and the next time on the left shoulder. Solano looked pretty irritated by the second one, but catcher Travis d’Arnaud and plate umpire Tim Welke quickly stepped in front of him and there was no trouble.
“Part of the game,” Solano said.
He got the best sort of revenge with a leadoff homer against Torres in the sixth to make it 2-0. The second baseman also robbed Omar Quintanilla twice, making a diving play to thwart a fifth-inning rally and a sliding stop to save a run in the seventh.
“Long days with doubleheaders, you need somebody to step up and be the hero. And today Alvarez and Solano gave us a big lift,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said.
Torres struck out a career-high eight in six innings and gave up only three hits. Still, he lost his third consecutive start.
The traditional doubleheader was scheduled to make up a June 7 rainout.
NOTES: Mets reliever Jeurys Familia was activated from the DL. … Alvarez has allowed a major league-low one home run in 14 starts this season.