NEW YORK (AP) — Marlon Byrd grounded a two-run single just inside third base in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the New York Mets a 4-3 victory over the Miami Marlins on Sunday.
Daniel Murphy homered and Anthony Recker had a run-scoring double for the Mets, who spoiled an impressive major league debut by prized Miami pitching prospect Jose Fernandez.
Justin Ruggiano, Chris Valaika and Donovan Solano (three hits) each had an RBI double off substitute starter Aaron Laffey to give the Marlins an early 3-0 cushion. But closer Steve Cishek (0-1) was unable to hold a one-run lead in the ninth, and Miami dropped to 1-5 heading into its home opener Monday night against Atlanta.
The 20-year-old Fernandez, who had never been above Class A, gave up one run and three hits in five innings. He walked one and struck out eight, a record for a Marlins pitcher in his major league debut.
Cishek retired his first batter in the ninth before Ruben Tejada was hit by a pitch. Pinch-hitter Kirk Nieuwenhuis singled to left-center and Tejada aggressively dashed to third against Juan Pierre’s weak arm. Nieuwenhuis moved up to second on the throw.
Byrd, who entered in a fifth-inning double switch, pulled a grounder just beyond the reach of a diving Valaika and down the left-field line. Both runners scored easily and Byrd was mobbed by excited teammates between first and second.
Scott Rice (1-0) worked a scoreless ninth for his first big league win after 14 seasons in the minors. New York, outhit 13-6 in the game, took two of three from the Marlins and has won its first two series for only the second time in 11 years.
Recker had an RBI double in the fifth, his first hit for the Mets, but Fernandez fanned Byrd and retired Collin Cowgill on a popup to leave the game with a 3-1 lead after 80 pitches.
Miami plans to keep Fernandez on a pitch count all season and limit him to 150-170 innings.
Murphy greeted A.J. Ramos with a leadoff homer to center in the sixth, his second of the series after hitting six last season. Fill-in first baseman Greg Dobbs made a sprawling play later in the inning to keep Miami ahead.
Pitching with his parents in the stands, Fernandez flashed a mid-90s mph fastball and showed advanced command of his sharp breaking ball. He retired his first 10 batters, striking out five, before Murphy lined a single to center.
Fernandez, the youngest pitcher in club history, came to the United States by boat as a Cuban refugee in 2008. The 6-foot-2, 242-pound right-hander was selected 14th overall out of his Tampa, Fla., high school in the 2011 amateur draft – one pick after the Mets went for outfielder Brandon Nimmo, who is with Class A Savannah in the South Atlantic League.
Fernandez was 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA in the low minors last season. He went to spring training this year with the Marlins but got reassigned to minor league camp March 13 and was ticketed for Double-A Jacksonville before injuries to Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi left two holes in the rotation.
Just before the season opener, Fernandez became a surprise addition to the roster, making him the youngest pitcher on a major league squad on opening day, according to STATS. He left 15 tickets for family and friends to attend his anticipated debut.
With shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria and Fernandez both in the lineup, it marked the first time the Marlins had two Cuban-born players on the field at the same time.
Laffey was touched up for 10 hits and three runs over 4 1-3 innings in his National League debut.
The left-hander, a part-time starter for Toronto last season, signed a minor league contract with the Mets and was called up to start Sunday in place of Shaun Marcum (neck), likely to be sidelined for at least two or three turns through the rotation.
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)