MIAMI -- James Loney struggled to fasten the wrestling-style belt the New York Mets award to the player of the game after wins. Finally, after securing it around his waist in the visitors’ clubhouse at Marlins Park, the recently imported first baseman declared: “Now we’re ready,” referring to his postgame media session.
One hundred and sixty-nine at-bats after his last major league homer, which happened to be off now-teammate Jacob deGrom, Loney delivered a tiebreaking, two-run shot in the seventh inning against left-hander Mike Dunn on Friday night. The Mets went on to a 6-2 win against the Miami Marlins in the series opener.
Before the game, with his offense in a rut and his captain, David Wright, newly placed on the disabled list with a herniated disk, manager Terry Collins noted that someone in the Mets’ lineup needed to step up.
“They’re getting opportunities,” Collins said. “James and Flo are going to get a lot of playing time. It’s nice to get them in the mix. And Rene has done a nice job so far.”
Flores finished 2-for-3 with a double, RBI and two runs scored. Loney delivered the tiebreaking, two-run homer in the seventh after Flores worked a four-pitch walk that chased Marlins starter Tom Koehler. And Rivera capped the night’s scoring with a two-run homer in the ninth.
“That’s huge, especially with Duda and the unfortunate news about David today,” said Noah Syndergaard, who earned the win after allowing two runs in seven innings. “That’s the thing about us, we have the ability to pick one another up. I feel like we’re able to go out there and handle a lot of adversity. It’s a great thing to be a part of. I really feel like we’re going to take off from here.”
Flores entered the night hitting only .167 with one homer and two RBIs in 60 at-bats. He thinks the regular playing time will be beneficial; Wright is now required to avoid baseball activity for the next six to eight weeks. As a pinch hitter, Flores confessed, the urgency to produce in limited opportunities negatively affected his performance.
“You just have that feeling that you’re going to get that opportunity tomorrow to play,” Flores said about the newfound comfort with being an everyday player, at least until the Mets acquire a third baseman from outside the organization. “I’m used to being out there. I know what to do when I’m playing every day. I just need to worry about the process and not the result. When I do that, I do well.”
Loney was having fun with the belt after the game. He had recorded his 100th career homer. He only joined the Mets this week, after being acquired from the San Diego Padres for cash Saturday.
He jokingly told his teammates after receiving the belt: “Thanks, guys, for all the years we’ve been through.”