NEW YORK (AP) — From the moment he walked into the clubhouse for the first time this season to his race around the bases on a four-base error, Jason Bay gave the New York Mets a much-needed jolt of positive vibes.
Bay, who also hit a ground-rule double, scored on an error by Hunter Pence on his flyball to right field, eliciting a raucous stir from his teammates in the dugout, and the Mets beat the Houston Astros 9-1 on Thursday night to end a seven-game home winless skid.
Bay was out with a strained rib cage since late March and hadn’t played in a regular-season game since July 25, when he went out with a concussion.
“Obviously having Jason Bay back — to pull these guys together is one of the best things that could happen,” manager Terry Collins said. “I think his presence in the clubhouse, in the dugout, and on the field is a big factor.”
David Wright ended his career-worst hitless drought with a homer and a two-run double, Mike Nickeas connected for his first major league home run, Ike Davis hit a monster shot over the apple in center field and Chris Capuano (2-1) pitched seven sharp innings for New York.
“It’s nice to have those kinds of games where you have the good starting pitching and the hitting,” Wright said.
Hoping to shake a slide in which they had lost 12 of 14, the Mets wore black hats, socks and undershirts with their white uniforms — the color combination of choice during spring training games in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Collins felt the team played solid fundamental baseball in the preseason and chose to try the look in a regular-season game. Anything goes after dropping eight of nine games at Citi Field this year.
“I think the unis might’ve worked,” Collins said.
Collins then tried to inspire the team further with a quick ejection — his first since 1999, when he was manager of the Anaheim Angels.
After Michael Bourn grounded out to start the game, Collins thought Nickeas caught Angels Sanchez’s foul tip for strike three. Home plate umpire Doug Eddings allowed Collins plenty of time to state his case before tossing him for his 22nd career ejection.
“I just wanted to get the call right,” Collins said when asked if he was trying to fire up the team. “Seems like every time something happens it blows up in our faces.”
The Mets had their starting outfield together for the first time since Bay’s last game for all of five innings. Center fielder Angel Pagan left after the fifth inning with a pulled muscle in his left side.
Despite colliding with second baseman Justin Turner in the fourth inning, Pagan said it was a swing in his last at-bat that hurt his side. Pagan said he’ll likely miss a couple of games.
Willie Harris took over in the field in the sixth and misplayed his first chance, in the seventh. He took his first step in on Brett Wallace’s drive to straightaway center and he could never recover to make the catch. Wallace ended up on second with a double, the first leadoff batter for Houston to reach base.
To that point Capuano worked an easy six innings. He gave up an RBI single to Matt Downs in the seventh for the Astros’ lone run. Capuano gave up six hits in seven innings, his longest outing of the season.
“He was throwing the ball well and we were trying to work him as much as we could, but we knew it was going to be tough to score some runs against him,” manager Brad Mills said. “We’ll look back and look at some things and move on but we’re very happy with the series victory.”
The Astros won the first two games of the series for their first consecutive victories this season.
Nickeas homered with one out in the third off J.A. Happ (1-3) for the Mets’ first hit.
Wright struck out in the first to extend his hitless streak to 20 at-bats with 10 Ks. He ended it emphatically with a liner into the left-center field seats in the fourth inning off the left-handed Happ.
“On the homer, great balance, head down. I told him that’s the perfect swing,” Collins said.
Beltran followed with a single and Bay hit a shallow fly down the right-field line that bounced into the stands for a double. Beltran scored on a wild pitch and Davis hit a sacrifice fly to put New York up 4-0.
Happ gave up six runs and six hits in 4 2-3 innings. He walked one and struck out five.
Bay hit another shallow fly to right in the eighth but this time Pence got to the ball. It hit off the right fielder’s glove and rolled down the line as Bay sped around the bases for a run. Wright, who walked, scored ahead of him.
NOTES: Houston SS Clint Barmes (broken left hand) has been cleared by Dr. Tom Mehlhoff for all baseball activities. Out since March 25, Barmes will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Oklahoma City on Sunday. He is scheduled to get three at-bats on Sunday, four on Monday and four-plus on Tuesday. … Capuano has both Mets home wins this season.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)