Robertson outduels Niese as Marlins beat Mets

NEW YORK -- This one was far more enjoyable for Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez.

Nate Robertson pitched five solid innings in his first start for Florida in eight seasons, and the Marlins beat the New York Mets 3-1 on Thursday to win their season-opening series.

Jorge Cantu hit a tiebreaking RBI double in the fifth and Gaby Sanchez added a run-scoring double in the sixth for Florida, which took the last two of the three-game set after losing 7-1 on Opening Day.

"I'll take this game at any time," Gonzalez said. "This is what we're looking for. No walks for the pitchers, three guys going in, throwing strikes, they did a terrific job."

It was quite the change from Wednesday night, when Gonzalez was exasperated after the Marlins issued nine walks, balked home the tying run and had to go to the 10th inning for a 7-6 victory after they led 6-1 in the seventh.

The Mets once again struggled with runners in scoring position and wasted an effective outing by Jonathon Niese while playing in front of a sluggish crowd of 25,982, a record low for Citi Field. Monday's game had a sellout crowd of 41,245 and the announced attendance for Wednesday night was 38,863.

The worst in 2009 was 35,581, against San Diego on April 15, for the second game at the ballpark.

At least help is on the way. Shortstop Jose Reyes, who was hampered by a thyroid problem during spring training, went 0 for 4 with an RBI groundout in a rehab game with Class A St. Lucie and will work out with the Mets before they open a weekend series against Washington.

Niese allowed three runs and eight hits over six innings in his first home start since he tore his right hamstring during a victory over St. Louis last August.

"I thought he threw the ball well," manager Jerry Manuel said. "He probably could have been more aggressive in a couple of spots."

Jeff Francoeur hit an RBI double in the fourth but that was all New York could manage against Robertson, who was acquired from Detroit on March 30 when the Tigers decided to give their final rotation spot to former Marlins star Dontrelle Willis. Florida got Robertson and cash from Detroit for a minor league pitcher.

It sure looked like a nice deal on Thursday night.

Robertson (1-0) allowed six hits in his first start for the Marlins since Sept. 7, 2002, at Pittsburgh. Florida selected the lefty in the fifth round of the 1999 draft and included him in a 2003 trade with Detroit that put Mark Redman in Miami, where he helped the Marlins win the World Series later that year.

"I was able to throw all my pitches for strikes. I needed to do it a little bit earlier in the count," said Robertson, who got up to 94 pitches. "Threw more pitches than I wanted to, especially after a long night last night."

Burke Badenhop followed Robertson with three innings of one-hit ball and Leo Nunez finished for his first save.

New York left two runners on in the second and fourth. Ruben Tejada, making his first career start, grounded into a fielder's choice to end the second and Niese tapped out to finish the fourth.

The Mets are 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position in their last two games.

Niese's injury last year was one of the lasting images from a trying season for New York. He was hurt covering first base on Aug. 5, and collapsed when he tried to throw a practice pitch. He spent three weeks in bed after surgery to repair his hamstring and couldn't walk normally for six weeks.

Back on the mound in New York, Niese (0-1) got a couple of bad breaks in the first. Cameron Maybin reached on a one-out grounder that skipped past lunging first baseman Fernando Tatis. He moved up on Hanley Ramirez's walk and scored when Dan Uggla's hard bouncer glanced off third baseman David Wright's glove for an RBI single.

Tatis helped Niese with his glove in the third. With runners on second and third, he scooped up Wright's bouncing throw to retire Uggla for the final out of the inning.

"I wanted to go out for the seventh but that's one of those things," Niese said. "I feel great. Even deep in the game I felt good."

Game notes
Gonzalez said he may try to get C Ronny Paulino some work at first base so he has more options late in games. ... Marlins RHP Chris Volstad is scheduled to face Dodgers RHP Hiroki Kuroda in Florida's home opener on Friday night. ... Mets RHP Mike Pelfrey and Nationals RHP Garrett Mock are slated to pitch when New York hosts Washington on Friday night.