John Buck continues slamming the ball in Mets' romp
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The baseball cut through the cold, crisp air at Target Field Friday night, well over the leftfield fence and into the upper deck. It defied logic for a homer to travel so far on an evening in which snow flurries blanketed the field in the early innings.
Of course, nothing about John Buck's start with the Mets has conformed to reason. So as the Mets administered a 16-5 pounding of the Twins, it seemed only appropriate that it was Buck who delivered the coup de grace.
"I'm benefiting from last year," said Buck, who hit .192 with the Marlins last season. "I tried too hard. Now I'm just going up there trying to hit the ball solid, and good things are happening."
With the Mets already on the way to winning a laugher, Buck launched his grand slam off reliever Pedro Hernandez with nobody out in the second, giving his team 10 runs in the first two innings. For Buck, it was the continuation of a charmed beginning after an offseason in which he was traded twice.
"Right now, you're almost starting to take it for granted," manager Terry Collins said. "When you need a big hit, he's going to get it."
Buck became the first Met since David Wright in 2007 to homer in four consecutive games. His six homers this season eclipses the total of five hit by Mets catchers a season ago.
Indeed, not even frigid temperatures could slow down Buck, who moved into a tie for the major-league lead in homers and RBIs (19).
With the mercury down to 34 degrees at first pitch, players from both teams took the field in long sleeves and wraps to warm their ears and heads. During breaks in the action, the stadium loudspeakers blasted Christmas music.
And the temperature seemed to drop by the inning. Neither starting pitcher responded well to the conditions.
Twins righthander Vance Worley was pulled with nobody out in the second inning. He eventually was charged with nine runs (seven earned) in the shortest start of his career.
Mets lefthander Jon Niese (2-0) allowed five runs (four earned) in five innings. It was the first time in 22 starts that he failed to pitch at least six innings. He said the cold prevented him from getting a consistent grip on the baseball and forced him to abandon his most important pitch, the cutter.
"I had zero feel for it today," said Niese, who benefited from early run support.
The Mets scored five runs in each of the first two innings, capped by Buck's grand slam to make it 10-2.
"A night like tonight, we needed it," Buck said. "The balls, they felt like pool cues out there. They were slippery."
Notes & quotes: Daniel Murphy matched his career high with four hits, including a three-run double . . . Wright finished 3-for-5 with four RBIs, including a run-scoring triple . . . The Mets' 16 runs were the most they scored in a game since they plated 17 runs against the Cubs June 27.