NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Lucas Duda was recalled from the minor leagues to provide some pop in a scuffling lineup. Surprisingly, it was his play in the outfield that helped the most in his first game back.
The new left fielder cut down a runner at the plate to preserve a tie in the ninth inning, which set up Ike Davis to be the game-winning hero.
Davis hit his second homer of the day with one out in the bottom half, lifting the New York Mets over the Houston Astros 2-1 on Sunday.
“It was a great throw by Duda, giving us a chance to keep it tied,” catcher Kelly Shoppach said of his teammate, who is often criticized for being a sub-par outfielder.
The Mets took two of three from the last-place Astros for their first home series win since early July.
Rookies Jeremy Hefner and Lucas Harrell engaged in a crisp duel for seven innings. Hefner took a shutout into the ninth before giving up a tying double to Marwin Gonzalez.
Gonzalez then tried to score on Ben Francisco’s single off Bobby Parnell (3-3) and Duda, brought up from Triple-A Buffalo earlier in the day, made a strong throw home.
Shoppach took Duda’s slightly high throw and stuck his left leg out to block the plate. Gonzalez tried to slide around him and reach back for the plate, but Shoppach used his body to prevent Gonzalez from slipping in a hand. Gonzalez jumped up and slammed his helmet down after being called out. He was ejected by home plate umpire Dave Rackley.
“It was a bang-bang play. The umpire got it right but I thought it could have went either way,” Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco said. “It was a heck of a play by the catcher squashing him off the plate.”
Davis’ drive off Wilton Lopez (5-2) just cleared the top of the right-field wall — and the glove of a leaping Francisco — for the second game-ending homer of his career — a homer under the new Citi Field dimensions. He took a leaping 360-degree spin into his awaiting teammates at the plate.
“I thought I hit it a little better than I did. Outfielder kind of deked me a little bit,” Davis said. “Thought I’d look like a fool because I didn’t run out of the box. … First one I got pretty good.”
Davis connected off Harrell leading off the fourth, launching a shot about halfway up the second deck in right to help the Mets snap a skid of six straight series losses at Citi Field. Since taking two of three from Philadelphia July 3-5, New York has gone 5-16 at home.
Batting .199 on July 4, Davis has lifted his average to .223 and he has 24 homers this season.
The Mets took two of three in the final series at Citi Field with Houston being a National League team. The Astros join the AL West next season.
At Buffalo, Duda worked on playing in left field after starting 80 games in the right for New York. Often looking lost in the field before he was sent down on July 24 because he was slumping at the plate, Duda couldn’t come up with a difficult catch in the ninth that allowed Houston to tie it 1-all, spoiling Hefner’s fine outing.
“I thought he looked great out there. He looks comfortable,” manager Terry Collins said. “As far as that ball goes, he ran a long way for that ball. And any time you dive toward that wall, there’s issues. I thought he did fine. Of course, he made a great throw, too.”
Said Duda: “I’m not going to be a Gold Glover in left because I switched positions.”
Pinch-hitter Jose Altuve led off the ninth with a single and Mets manager Terry Collins chose to leave Hefner in. Gonzalez then hit a low liner down the left-field line. Duda made the long run and the ball hit of his glove as he tried to make the catch and avoid hitting the wall.
Altuve scored and Gonzalez landed on second base chasing Hefner.
“Jeremy pitched a great game,” Collins said. “That’s why he deserved to go out there in the ninth inning.”
Hefner made seven career starts coming in and had little success, going 2-4 with a 5.63 ERA. He was again added to the Mets rotation a week ago when they expanded to a six-man staff. In his first outing, he gave up five runs over five innings in a loss at Washington.
This time he was dominant against a team with a league-low .238 average, giving up a run and five hits in eight-plus innings. He struck out seven.
Hefner received a nice ovation from the 25,071 when he batted in the eighth inning with Shoppach on first base. Hefner sacrificed him to second and returned to the dugout to another round of applause.
Harrell came in the leader in innings pitched for rookies and had won 25 percent of the Astros’ 40 games. He was second to Wade Miley in wins for rookies in the NL and led the league with 151 1-3 innings pitched.
He showed how good he was Sunday, giving up two hits and a run with four of his seven strikeouts coming with the batter caught looking.
NOTES: Duda went 0 for 2 with a walk. … The Mets optioned OF Jordany Valdespin to Buffalo. Valdespin has five pinch-hit homers, most in a season by a Mets player. … RHP Armando Galarraga has chosen to become a free agent rather than accepting an assignment to the minors after being designated for assignment by the Astros last week. … Astros OF Justin Maxwell missed his fifth consecutive start with a bruised right index finger. He will see a doctor Monday and could be headed to the disabled list. … Mets 2B Daniel Murphy has a posterior strain in right shoulder. He will have an MRI on Monday. He first felt it on the bench before his at-bat in the eighth inning.
Can the Mets extend their streak to three straight on Tuesday against the Phils? Sound off below…
(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)