The line drive jumped off Logan Morrison's bat and slammed into the bare right wrist of Frank Francisco. The Mets reliever took a few steps forward to retrieve the ball, then fell to the ground, his body gripped by pain.
Francisco came off the field immediately in the eighth inning of the Marlins' 3-0 victory over the Mets in the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday. It was perhaps the final moment of a Mets career defined mainly by failure.
The 34-year-old Francisco signed a two-year, $12-million contract before the 2012 season, when he functioned as the Mets closer. He notched 23 saves but pitched to a 5.53 ERA before an elbow injury forced an end to his season in the final month.
The condition required surgery to remove bone spurs in December, when Francisco's real problems began. He was slow to rehab and his elbow issues spilled over into spring training, and then the regular season.
The Mets insisted that there as no medical reason for Francisco's rehab to linger. Nevertheless, he did not rejoin the team until last Sunday in Cleveland. He insisted he was bothered by a small tear in his flexor pronator. He railed against the perception that he was content to collect his $6.5 million salary for the season, without making the effort to return.
It was a perception that the team didn't bother to dispute.
Francisco, who once caused a stir when called the Yankees chickens before a Subway Series game, didn't need much time to trigger controversy upon his return. In his previous outing, with first base open, he angered the Nationals by plunking Jayson Werth.
On Saturday, Francisco entered his fourth game since his return with the task of keeping the Mets' deficit to 2-0. Mets starter Carlos Torres (3-5) allowed just two runs over six innings, including a solo homer to Donovan Solano. But the Mets' offense stalled against Henderson Alvarez (4-4), who tossed seven innings.
It was up to Francisco to limit the damage in the eighth inning after Tim Byrdak allowed a leadoff double to Christian Yelich. Francisco struck out Giancarlo Stanton and then walked Justin Ruggiano, which brought Morrison to the plate.
Before Francisco released what might be his final pitch as a member of the Mets, Morrison appeared to motion for time, a request that was not granted by plate umpire Tim Welke. It turned out to be another break that went against Francisco, a free agent at season's end. Moments later, he staggered off the field in pain.
NOTE: Reliever Jeurys Familia rejoined the Mets. He had been sidelined since May 9, having undergone surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow.