NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — There’s more to it than just Jack McKeon. There’s the timely hitting, the stingy pitching, the proper execution with runners on base.
Now matter how anyone tries to explain it, though, the Florida Marlins simply look like a new team under their old manager.
Clay Hensley came off the disabled list to win his first major league start in three years and the resurgent Marlins beat the New York Mets 4-1 on Monday night for their ninth victory in 10 games.
“We’re interested in winning,” McKeon said. “We’re not going to worry about hurting anybody’s feelings. I would think that everyone on this club would be interested in winning, and that’s the way it’s going to be. If someone doesn’t like it, that’s too bad.”
Mike Stanton hit a two-run double and slumping Mike Cameron followed with an RBI single for Florida, on the cusp of escaping the NL East cellar.
The Marlins improved to 15-9 under the 80-year-old McKeon, who took over after Edwin Rodriguez abruptly resigned late in the team’s 1-19 June swoon.
“We never thought we were going to the park to lose a game, but Jack kind of adds a little life to the dugout, keeps it loose in there with his sayings, and does a good job of managing the game,” outfielder Logan Morrison said.
In the makeup of a May 17 rainout, Hensley (1-2) allowed one hit over five scoreless innings against a depleted Mets lineup. It was his 41st big league start — but first since July 24, 2008, for San Diego. The right-hander made 20 relief appearances this season before a sprained shoulder sidelined him June 1.
Willie Harris’ first-inning double was the only hit given up by Hensley, who struck out three and walked two in an 84-pitch outing. Michael Dunn, Edward Mujica, Randy Choate and Leo Nunez completed the three-hitter.
For the diminutive Hensley, it was his first win since Aug. 31 against Washington — and first as a starter since Aug. 16, 2007, with the Padres against Colorado. As long as he’s effective, Florida plans to keep Hensley in the rotation, which is minus injured ace Josh Johnson.
“It’s definitely a different beast than coming out of the bullpen and I haven’t done it in a while, so I was pretty fired up that first inning,” Hensley said. “But as the game started going on I kind of settled in and relaxed a little bit more.”
Choate gave up a leadoff single and a one-out walk in the ninth before going to a 2-0 count on Lucas Duda. That was enough for McKeon, who strolled to the mound and brought in Nunez as a furious Choate stomped around in the dugout.
“He’s the manager, I’m the player. He makes the call to the bullpen, I come off the mound,” said Choate, adding that he was surprised by the move.
Duda drew a walk, charged to Choate, before Jason Bay’s sacrifice fly made it 4-1. With runners at the corners, Nunez retired Ronny Paulino on a slow grounder for his 27th save in 30 tries.
The Mets expect to get star shortstop Jose Reyes (hamstring) and slugger Carlos Beltran (flu) back on Tuesday, with David Wright (back) soon to follow this week.
But on this night, they looked listless and inept at the plate.
“Any team in this league that loses guys like that are going to have a tough time getting offense generated,” manager Terry Collins said. “But we still have to plug away and put the ball in play and spread the ball around and run the bases a little bit better and be aggressive on the bases, and we just didn’t do that.”
Harris’ double was New York’s lone hit until Nick Evans singled off Dunn to start the seventh. Harris also singled leading off the ninth.
The Mets have lost six of eight following a four-game winning streak.
McKeon stacked his lineup with eight right-handed batters, but Chris Capuano (8-9) held Florida hitless until Hanley Ramirez singled on a two-strike pitch with two outs in the fourth. Gaby Sanchez walked and Stanton laced a two-run double to left-center.
Cameron, who began the night 3 for 20 (.150) with Florida, singled to make it 3-0.
Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada, filling in for Reyes, made a spectacular play in the fifth when he ranged far into shallow center field for a fully extended, diving catch of Hensley’s soft looper.
Emilio Bonifacio singled to start the eighth, extending his career-best hitting streak to 17 games, and advanced on Omar Infante’s sacrifice. He stole third and scored on Morrison’s single.
Bonifacio’s hitting streak is the longest current run in the majors and Florida’s longest this season.
This was the first of seven games between the teams in a span of 17 days. Florida, which has won 13 of 17, made a one-game pit stop in New York between a four-game series at Wrigley Field and the start of a six-game homestand.
“I think we did a good job of not coming out flat and lackadaisical,” Morrison said.
NOTES: Florida OF Chris Coghlan (left knee inflammation) had a setback in his rehab assignment with Double-A Jacksonville. The 2009 NL Rookie of the Year will stop playing games for now and receive treatment on his knee. … Mets RF Scott Hairston fouled a ball off his left shin in the first and came out after two innings. … Collins said Beltran was available as a pinch-hitter and would have batted if Paulino reached base.
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