Willie Harris contributed a two-run homer and the Mets chased ex-Yankee Javier Vazquez in the third inning en route to a 9-2 win against the sloppy Florida Marlins in Sunday’s rubber game at Sun Life Stadium.
The Mets did not win a road series last year until sweeping consecutive June interleague stops at Baltimore and Cleveland. They did not win a road series against an NL opponent until an Aug. 20-22 series at Pittsburgh.
Vazquez departed after an RBI ground-rule double to center by Daniel Murphy with one out in the third, then an intentional walk to Josh Thole with first base open that loaded the bases.
Reliever Edward Mujica then coaxed a potential 5-2-3 double-play grounder while pitching to R.A. Dickey, but third baseman Emilio Bonifacio overthrew catcher John Buck and two runs trotted home to give the Mets a 7-0 lead.
Sloppiness also cost the Marlins in the first and eighth innings.
After Harris’ two-run homer in the opening frame, Florida was poised to get out of the inning when Lucas Duda hit into a potential 3-6-1 double play. However, shortstop Hanley Ramirez threw behind Vazquez on the return throw to first base and Ike Davis scored from second.
In the eighth, reliever Randy Choate’s throwing error allowed Chin-lung Hu to reach to open the inning. Hu scored on a bases-loaded walk to Angel Pagan, the third walk of the day drawn by the center fielder.
Five of the Mets’ nine runs were unearned. The Marlins committed the second-most errors in baseball from 2006-10, fewer than only the Washington Nationals.
The final line for Vazquez, who signed a one-year free agent contract for $7 million with Florida: 2.1 innings, 6 H, 7 R, 4 ER, 5 BB (one intentional), 1 K.
The Mets chased only one opposing starter in 2 1/3 innings or fewer last year: Detroit ace Justin Verlander (2.0 IP, 5 ER on June 22, 2010). And that was more attributable to a 58-minute rain delay, after which Verlander did not return. Two of the runs charged to Verlander actually scored after played resumed without him.
Dickey, meanwhile, limited Florida to a third-inning sacrifice fly by Omar Infante on Sunday. The knuckleballer retired Scott Cousins on a groundout to first base to strand runners on the corners and complete his outing after six innings and 106 pitches with the Mets leading, 7-1. The run was unearned because Thole’s passed ball advanced Cousins to third base, in position to score on Infante’s fly ball.
• FIFTH AND LONG: Fifth-starter Chris Capuano, who is being skipped in the rotation until Saturday’s game against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field, made his Mets debut as a reliever in the seventh in place of Dickey.
Capuano surrendered four straight two-out baserunners, including on an RBI single by Gaby Sanchez, and was pulled after loading the bases on a walk to Logan Morrison.
D.J. Carrasco, also making his first Mets appearance, entered and got ahead of Buck with a pair of strikes. With the count eventually full, Buck fouled off one pitch, then struck out as the Marlins stranded three and the Mets maintained a five-run lead.
• JASON WHO? Harris’ two-run homer in the first inning gave him four hits and four RBIs in his first six at-bats as a Met.
The four hits were consecutive over three days, and also included a two-run double in the 10th inning Saturday.
Harris started for the second time in three games in left field, with Jason Bay still getting therapy in Port St. Lucie for a strained left rib-cage muscle.
After signing a four-year, $66 million deal during the 2009-10 offseason, Bay took 17 games to reach four RBIs last year.
Harris, meanwhile, had only six hits in 37 at-bats for the Nationals last April and hit .183 for the season.
• IKE CRUSH: Davis homered in the third inning off Vazquez to stake the Mets to a 4-0 lead. That capped a stretch in which Davis reached base in five of six plate appearances. The lone blemish during that span came Saturday when he was robbed of a hit by a headfirst diving catch from Marlins center fielder Chris Coghlan in the fourth inning.
• SECOND COMING: Murphy came through his first major league start at second base with a positive performance. Coghlan led off the bottom of the first with a routine grounder which Murphy uneventfully fielded. During an active day at the position, Murphy also had to charge for Morrison’s slow grounder in the second inning and get off a quick throw to first, which he accomplished.
It wasn’t as crisp a day for Duda in right field, which is an unfamiliar position for him as well. Duda misread Buck’s high fly ball in the fourth inning and needed to make a headfirst diving catch of the routine ball.
An inning later, Duda aggressively tried to throw out Brian Sanches at first base on Sanches’ opposite-field hit. The attempt was not in time.
Murphy, meanwhile, started at second base because Terry Collins wanted to give him at-bats because he had only one in the first two regular-season games. Brad Emaus still should get consistent starts at the position.
Hu replaced Murphy in the seventh on a double-switch.
• IN THE RUNNING: The Mets’ first five batters reached base against Vazquez in the first inning. The lone out during that stretch came when the Mets ran themselves into an out for the second straight day.
This time, David Wright was thrown out going first to third on Cousins’ throw from right field on a single. A day earlier, with Bonifacio in right field, Thole rounded first base too hard on a single and was caught retreating to the bag.
• IN A PINCH: Carlos Beltran, on his first day off after two full games in right field, pinch-hit with the bases loaded in the eighth and flied out. Beltran also should start two of three games in Philadelphia.
• K-ROD TRACKER: Francisco Rodriguez went unused in the lopsided game, a day after blowing the save in the ninth inning. He has no games finished so far. He needs 55 games finished in the Mets’ final 159 games in order for his contract to vest at $17.5 million for 2012.
• PHIL UP: The Mets fly to New York to get settled in their homes, then bus to Philly on Monday evening for the following day’s series opener against the Phillies. Tuesday features Chris Young vs. Cole Hamels. Wednesday: Mike Pelfrey vs. Joe Blanton. Thursday: Jon Niese vs. Roy Halladay.
Young, incidentally, is the lone Met not to see action in the first series.