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Can Yoenis Cespedes again fuel Mets' run to playoffs?

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NEW YORK -- If the New York Mets are going to make noise down the stretch, Yoenis Cespedes again will need to lead them, as he did after arriving in a trade with the Detroit Tigers last season.

He provided his latest important blast Monday.

Cespedes' walk-off homer with two outs in the 10th against reliever Nick Wittgren lifted the Mets to a 2-1 win against the Miami Marlins in the series opener at Citi Field.

The Mets pulled even with the Marlins at 67-64 and remained within 2½ games of the St. Louis Cardinals for the second wild-card spot.

"Every time I see Cespedes at home plate, I feel like he's going to hit a homer," said Jose Reyes, who doubled against A.J. Ramos and scored on a wild pitch in the eighth to even the score. "That's the way that I feel in the dugout. I'm sure the other guys feel the same way. They had the opportunity to see him get hot last year. And, for me, seeing him this year, it's unbelievable what he can do on the baseball field. Basically he can do whatever he wants to when he wants to. It's good to see. We're going to need him."

It was the second walk-off homer of Cespedes' career, the first coming as a member of the A's on June 21, 2012, against the Dodgers' Josh Lindblom.

Cespedes had sat out Sunday's game with a flare-up of the right quadriceps strain that had sent him to the disabled list for 15 days earlier in the month.

The Mets were woefully short-handed Monday, with Asdrubal Cabrera (knee) and Neil Walker (back) out of the starting lineup and the team already playing with a short bench because T.J. Rivera was demoted to make room for spot starter Rafael Montero. Cabrera pinch hit Monday but cannot run. Jacob deGrom was used as a pinch hitter during the game.

As for Cespedes' balky quadriceps: "There's moments where it tightens up, but for the most part it's not going to stop me from playing," he said through an interpreter after his heroics.

Said manager Terry Collins: "I think he feels a lot better. I think his leg is still a little bit of an issue. I just think the rest has helped it enough that it doesn't bother him to play, so he can play through it. That's why yesterday we didn't play him. He played the night before and had to score and got a little stiff at the end of the game. We've got to keep this guy on the field as best we can. But I do know before he went on the DL he was hurting. That also stems from the hip earlier in the year -- the one that got all swelled up. He’s played through some discomfort, but he's fun to watch."

How valuable is Cespedes? The Mets are 55-48 when he is in the lineup and 12-16 otherwise.

Cespedes said he was surprised the Marlins pitched to him with two outs and no one on base in the 10th.

"He's that kind of player," Collins said. "You expect big things each and every time he goes up. He's one of those guys people pay to see him play. They see him come up to bat and they know he can do something dangerous each and every time up. He's a special guy. That's why to keep him healthy is priority No. 1 at this moment."