Mets 5, Cards 5: Murph avoids scare


PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- David Wright went hitless in three at-bats in his 2014 Grapefruit League debut, but the Mets rallied for a 5-5 tie against the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday afternoon, thanks to consecutive two-out RBI singles in the bottom of the ninth by Wilmer Flores and Eric Campbell.

Wright and Daniel Murphy had been held out of the first week of Grapefruit League play by Terry Collins to try to prevent an early-camp injury. Murphy also made his exhibition debut Friday and fortunately escaped injury on an aggressive fourth-inning slide into second base. He finished 1-for-2 with a double and a walk.

Wright was buzzed up and in by the first pitch he saw from hard-throwing right-hander Carlos Martinez. He ultimately grounded out to shortstop twice and also hit into a 5-4-3 double play. He received no chances at third base.

“It’s the first game,” Wright said. “Everything feels a little awkward. It doesn't help all that much that the first guy you face is throwing 97 mph.”

Murphy’s hold-your-breath moment came when he tried to break up Wright’s fourth-inning, double-play grounder. Murphy slid late and directly into Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong. Murphy then hobbled off the field but remained in the game and portrayed the issue afterward as simply a scraped right shin.

“I ran into a truck,” Murphy said. “He’s strong. I went in there to break up two, and he didn't move. I was surprised. I asked him if he was all right. It should have been the other way around.”

Asked if Murphy should be scaling back his aggressiveness in a spring training game and save such slides for the regular season, Collins said, “He only knows one way to play. And that’s why he’s a good player.”

It was a rough day for Mets fielders, with errors charged to Murphy, Ruben Tejada and Andrew Brown, among countless other misplays.

In fact, Tejada failed on three makeable plays. In the first inning, Matt Holliday’s grounder bounced off the shortstop and into the outfield for a run-scoring single charged to Daisuke Matsuzaka. Later, the Cardinals’ final run scored when Tejada failed to handle a hard smash from Wang in his vicinity. That play was scored a single.

Tejada, who had been dealing with a left-hamstring injury, was playing in his first Grapefruit League game since last Friday.

lastname Murphylastname Wright Collins excused those plays, plus Murphy’s error on a grounder, because of the hard infield on the windy day, as well as because of rust from inactivity.

“Those are plays you've seen all those guys make before,” Collins said.

Matsuzaka and John Lannan, the primary fifth-starter contenders, each allowed two runs (one earned) in two innings. Matsuzaka surrendered six hits. Lannan surrendered three.

“There were a few unlucky hits that dropped in,” Dice-K said through his interpreter. “In general, I think I was able to accomplish what I wanted to today.”

Matsuzaka said his slider was better than his previous outing, but his location “was a little bit of a problem.”

Lannan said, “The first inning was kind of rough, second inning was a little bit better. I still have room to improve.” The southpaw was disappointed with his slider and said his fastball seemed to have less life in this appearance.

The young pitchers performed much better.

Rafael Montero was poised to pitch two perfect innings until Brown dropped the would-be final out of the sixth. An unearned run eventually scored when Wong’s smash got through Tejada.

Steven Matz, ticketed for Class A St. Lucie to open the season, allowed a single and a walk but rallied to strand both runners with three straight strikeouts in the seventh.

Jeurys Familia tossed a scoreless ninth.

Wilfredo Tovar finished the game at shortstop in his first action since suffering a hamstring injury Feb. 28.

The game included one failed replay challenge and some comedy in the clubhouse.

Dillon Gee, Zack Wheeler and Jeremy Hefner were given a walkie-talkie and assigned to watch SNY in the clubhouse. They were instructed to radio to Bob Geren in the dugout if any plays ought to be challenged.

The problem? On a close call at second base in which Eric Young Jr. was called out attempting a steal, SNY never showed a replay before going to commercial. So the Mets passed on challenging. (In-season, the Mets will have several angles available immediately on a feed and will not be reliant on telecasts.)

“We didn’t miss it!” Gee playfully protested. “SNY went right to commercial.”

The Cardinals did challenge an eighth-inning call but failed to get it overturned because Flores had successfully blocked second base and applied a tag.

Collins, by the way, confirmed Flores is scheduled to start at shortstop in the next few days. The manager also wants to use Flores at third base, reasoning that if Flores is going to make the team, he needs to be able to play all the infield positions.

As for Flores’ ninth-inning RBI single during the game-tying rally, Collins said, “That’s what he’s done his whole minor league career. He drives in runs.”

What's next: Noah Syndergaard opposes the Tigers on Saturday in Lakeland.