Byrd gets the winning hit on his return to Citi Field

Rich Mancuso

 Marlon Byrd enjoyed his time in New York the first four months last season with the Mets. He became the unexpected surprise out of spring training and at the trading deadline was dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Mets did him a favor sending him to a contender, and Byrd became a productive player in the post season for Pittsburgh.

Friday night at Citi Field he returned with the Philadelphia Phillies, the team that signed him as a free agent in the off-off season. Byrd did the Mets no favors driving in the go-ahead run in the 11th inning that gave the Phillies a 3-2 win in the first of a three-game series.

The four-and-a –half hour game was the longest for New York this season. Hours before, in the first inning, the Mets scored a run that snapped their scoreless streak of 23.0 consecutive innings. The Phillies also have struggled scoring runs, 10th in the National league, so the hit by Byrd was their hopeful sign that runs will come.

“Had some tough at-bats early," Byrd said after striking out three times and walking twice before getting his big hit. “The good thing is I know the guys over there, know what they're trying to do. They changed it up on me a little bit with Carlos. It was just one of those things.”

Byrd got the opposite field hit to right, a ball that could have went foul, off Carlos Torres. He reached for the low ball that was sliced for an RBI double that scored Chase Utley who got a one-out double. Torres has been the most reliable pitcher out of the Mets’ pen, but Byrd felt he had the advantage knowing Torres can throw a cutter.

“I made my adjustments. I was hoping to get a cutter but put it in the right spot,” said Byrd.

He laughed. This game was long, like so many that he had with the Mets last year. “Yes, I was over there last year… seems like there were so many extra inning games last year. I had a great time here. Loved the staff, it’s a great place to be. I’m very grateful for what they did for me last year.”

The Mets last year signed him to a minor league contract. Prior to that, Byrd had been traveling from one team to another, but now he is home with the Phillies a team that drafted him in the 10th round in 1999. The Mets, as he said, gave him another chance after a suspension for PED use in 2012 that he admitted was his fault.

That is in the past. The Mets had an opportunity to get younger when they made the trade for Pittsburgh prior to the July 31 deadline that also included sending catcher John Buck to the Pirates.  

Two straight innings the Mets stranded three base runners, and the Phillies stranded seven in first three innings. It was a game headed for a nine inning record of stranding base runners and in total both teams left 32 on base, and the Mets were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

Ugly baseball, until the Phillies and Byrd got men on and sent them home.

“Right now we’ve got to figure out a way to score,” said Mets manager Terry Collins. His team returned home from a dismal 2-6 road trip, including the final two games where they failed to score against the Marlins.

Except for the Curtis Granderson run scoring double in the first inning, and David Wright tying two-run double in the eighth, once again the Mets offense was dormant. Collins was asked about the men left on base for both teams, and as expected he commented, “I’m worried about my own team.”

And, Byrd is more confident that hit will lead to momentum and get the Phillies bats going against a former teammate he respects the 3-1 Dillon Gee.

NOTES: Mets starter Jennry Mejia threw 101 pitches in 4 2/3 innings. Collins said, “Two runs, he pitched fine.” Mejia may have pitched his last game in the rotation as the Mets were contemplating making a move after his two previous outings on the road that were not sharp.

Said Mejia, “I want to be a starter, I think I am a starter.  I made some adjustments. Today that was not bad. I think that was good.” And in all fairness, Mejia was able to get the fastball over the plate and after giving up six and eight runs in two previous starts, this was an improvement…

Josh Satin will be sent down to Triple-A Las Vegas Saturday and Eric Campbell will get the call to be a starter or backup to Lucas Duda at first base. Duda was not in the lineup with food poisoning and Satin, who has been struggling, went 0-for-5. Campbell, who almost made the roster with a good spring, was hitting .355 with three home runs and 24 RBI with Las Vegas…

 Comment Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com  Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso