Marlins, Mets play rubber match

April 8, 2010

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Thursday, April 8th (All times eastern)

Florida Marlins (1-1) at New York Mets (1-1), 7:10 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Florida – Nate Robertson (0-0, 0.00) New York – Jon Niese (0-0, 0.00)

(Sports Network) – After needing extra innings to declare a winner in Wednesday’s meeting, the New York Mets and Florida Marlins will square off again tonight at Citi Field in the rubber match of a three-game series between the National League East rivals.

The Marlins evened this season-opening set last night, although it turned out to be a tougher win than expected. After blowing a five-run advantage in the late innings, Florida rebounded to post a 7-6 decision on pinch-hitter Ronny Paulino’s RBI single in the top of the 10th.

Florida, which was dealt a 7-1 defeat in Monday’s opener, built a seemingly- comfortable 6-1 advantage after 6 1/2 innings before its bullpen imploded down the stretch. Relievers Renyel Pinto, Jose Veras and Leo Nunez combined to give up three runs over just 2 1/3 frames, with Nunez letting the tying run to score after being called for a bases-loaded balk in the bottom of the eighth.

Nunez was able to work out of a jam in the ninth to keep the game tied, and Paulino put Florida back ahead with a one-out single off Hisanori Takahashi that scored Wes Helms, who opened the 10th with a base hit.

“Every time you have a chance to win a ball game, it’s a great feeling,” said Paulino. “It was tough because we thought it was going to be easy and it got tough.”

Tim Wood then set down the Mets in order in the bottom of the 10th to notch his first major league save.

Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco pitched well in a no-decision, with the righthander being charged with three runs allowed on just three hits over the first 6 2/3 innings.

New York took the contest into extra frames despite being outhit by a 17-6 margin for the night.

“I think we showed the ability to grind out at-bats,” said Mets manager Jerry Manuel. “That’s what good teams do when they are down as we were. I was proud of that.”

The Mets will attempt to bounce back tonight behind Jon Niese, who’ll be making the ninth start of his major league career and first at Citi Field since suffering a season-ending torn hamstring in a game last August. The young lefthander has made a healthy return this spring and earned a spot in the team’s rotation despite a 6.52 earned run average in Grapefruit League action.

Considered one of New York’s top pitching prospects, Niese has a 2-2 record with a 5.22 ERA during his brief tenure in the majors and was 1-1 with a 4.21 ERA in five starts before getting injured last season. The 23-year-old will be opposing the Marlins for the first time tonight.

Recently-acquired Nate Robertson draws the assignment for Florida and will pitching as a National Leaguer for the first time. The Marlins acquired the veteran southpaw from Detroit near the end of spring training in exchange for minor league pitcher Jay Voss, with Florida also receiving cash considerations to help cover Robertson’s $10 million salary in 2010.

Robertson, a fifth-round draft choice of the Marlins in 1999 who pitched in six games with Florida in 2002, wasted no time making a good first impression in his second tour of duty with the team. In his final exhibition tuneup, he held St. Louis to one run and a mere two hits over seven sharp innings on April 1.

The 32-year-old won 13 games during Detroit’s run to the World Series in 2006, but has gone just 18-27 in three seasons since. He spent most of last year working out of the Tigers’ bullpen and recorded a 5.44 ERA in 28 appearances, six of them starts.

Robertson’s only previous encounter with the Mets occurred in 2004 at the old Shea Stadium, where he permitted two runs on four hits and struck out six in a 7 2/3-inning no-decision.

Florida has now won in four of their last five trips to Citi Field and went 6-3 as the visitor in last year’s season series. The Marlins took 11 of the 18 overall meetings between the NL East foes a year ago.


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