By MIKE FITZPATRICK AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ Lucas Duda hit a pair of two-run homers only hours after the Mets gave him the starting job at first base, and New York beat the Cincinnati Reds 4-3 Friday night behind Jenrry Mejia for its first victory of the season.
Replacement closer Jose Valverde struck out Jay Bruce with two on to end it, and the Mets avoided their first 0-4 start since opening with five consecutive losses in 2005.
The 24-year-old Mejia (1-0), who beat out Daisuke Matsuzaka for the final spot in the rotation, struck out a career-high eight in six innings. Flashing a sharp breaking ball, he allowed one run and four hits in a steady rain and mist.
Bruce homered and drove in three runs for the Reds, who had won six straight at Citi Field. Mike Leake (0-1) gave up five hits and three walks in 6 2-3 innings.
Mets left fielder Eric Young Jr. robbed Brandon Phillips of a home run, and backup catcher Anthony Recker threw out speedy pinch-runner Billy Hamilton trying to steal second for a big out in the eighth.
New York’s maligned bullpen, which compiled a 10.61 ERA during Washington’s three-game sweep to start the season, held on this time behind Valverde and fellow veteran Kyle Farnsworth, who got four outs.
Valverde worked the ninth for his first save with the Mets. He took over as closer when Bobby Parnell went on the disabled list with a partially torn ligament in his right elbow after blowing a save on opening day.
Rain followed the Reds to New York after they waited through 6 hours, 22 minutes of delays to get in two home games against St. Louis the previous two days.
This one started on time with a temperature of 41 degrees, but the weather never cleared up and the grounds crew had to keep drying out the infield and mound. The announced attendance was 35,845, but empty seats were everywhere and it appeared fewer than 10,000 fans showed up.
Mejia struck out five of his first eight batters and overcame five walks, which matched a career high. He got defensive help from Young, who robbed Phillips of a first-inning homer.
Bruce put Cincinnati ahead with an RBI single in the third.
Curtis Granderson beat the shift in the fourth when he grounded a leadoff double inside third base. Duda drove the next pitch into the Mets’ bullpen in right-center for a 2-1 lead.
David Wright opened the sixth with an infield single and, after Bruce robbed Granderson of extra bases with running catch in deep right-center, Duda ripped a line drive over the fence in right for his fifth career multihomer game.
Duda is 6 for 8 against Leake with three extra-base hits.
Bruce cut it to 4-3 in the seventh with a two-run drive off reliever John Lannan. It was Bruce’s 45th home run off a left-hander since 2010, most among all major league hitters during that span.
NOTES: Cincinnati rested Hamilton (0 for 12) and SS Zack Cozart (0 for 11). “For no other reason than trying to make sure that our other guys stay sharp,” manager Bryan Price said. CF Roger Bernadina made his first start for Cincinnati, and Ramon Santiago became the 24th Reds shortstop to play next to Phillips. … RHP Mat Latos (elbow, knee) threw 75 pitches over four innings Thursday night in a rehab start for Double-A Pensacola. He is slated to throw about 90 pitches and six innings next Tuesday for Triple-A Louisville, and if he comes out of that outing feeling good, the Reds are optimistic he could start April 13 against Tampa Bay or right after that against Pittsburgh. … Cincinnati reliever Jonathan Broxton (right forearm) was scheduled to pitch back-to-back days Friday and Saturday for Pensacola. If he gets through that OK, Broxton could join the Reds in St. Louis early next week, Price said. … C Devin Mesoraco (oblique) also is rehabbing at Pensacola. … Mets RHP Dillon Gee starts Saturday against RHP Johnny Cueto.
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