Low-budget lineup spreads wealth as Mets get 17 hits, crush Marlins, 10-3

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MIAMI - Moneyball it ain't.

But as far as doing more with less - OK, practically nothing - the Mets would have made A's general manager Billy Beane proud with yesterday's 10-3 victory over the Marlins at Land Shark Stadium.

After a $19-million lineup failed to get the job done the previous night, Jerry Manuel removed Luis Castillo - the team's highest-paid active player at $6 million - and replaced Brian Schneider with Omir Santos for a savings of another $2 million.

The result? A lean, mean $11-million lineup that featured Jeff Francoeur as its top earner with a $3.375-million salary this season.

By comparison, the notoriously small-market Marlins nearly matched the Mets with two players. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez and second baseman Dan Uggla make a combined $10.85 million this year.

Throw in a solid performance by Tim Redding, a senior member of the so-called "Fabulous Five" rotation, and the Mets deftly avoided getting swept by the Marlins, who are nine games over .500 and still in the wild-card race at 4 1/2 games behind the red-hot Rockies.

Not that anyone in South Florida cares. The official attendance was 12,423, but there had to be no more than 500 fans in the stadium for the matinee. When a "Let's Go Mets" chant began in the fifth inning, it was kept going by about 75 people.

"This stadium has been empty for years," Redding said.

Redding, who took over the spot vacated by the release of Livan Hernandez, served up three solo home runs, including a pair to Florida leadoff hitter Chris Coghlan and another tape-measure blast to Uggla in the seventh. Redding allowed only two other hits and went 6 2/3 innings.

The Mets somehow made it through a whole 24 hours without another injury announcement, though Gary Sheffield missed his second straight game because of lower back spasms. The rest of the lineup didn't miss Sheffield, piling up 17 hits.

"We played a real crisp ballgame today," Daniel Murphy said. "I'll tell you what, I felt we were really locked in to play."

Murphy, the No. 3 hitter of this skeleton crew, went 2-for-5 with a 430-foot ground-rule double and three RBIs.

Angel Pagan, who lost his career-high 10-game hitting streak Wednesday, went 2-for-4 with a home run, a pair of walks and two runs scored. Wilson Valdez, starting at shortstop, had two hits and two RBIs, and Fernando Tatis smacked his seventh homer as the Mets snapped a five-game losing streak.

With the Mets adding Johan Santana and Oliver Perez to the disabled list during the first two games of this series, that upped the Mets' financial cost to roughly $88 million in 13 DL players. The Mets began the season with a $140-million payroll, and abruptly slashing it to pieces has been a shock to the system.

"It's one thing to build a $60-million payroll," said assistant GM John Ricco, the traveling executive on the Miami leg of this 10-day road trip. "But it's another thing to be left with a $60-million payroll."

That's something the Mets never anticipated at the start of this nightmare season. But with 34 games remaining on the schedule, it's a reality the survivors are coping with.

When Manuel was asked before the game if he had ever worked with a smaller margin for error, he laughed out loud.

"When I first started in Chicago, we kind of struggled to get things right," said Manuel, who managed the White Sox from 1998-2003. "We were a young club. This is a little different. These are major-league players and you have to some degree expect a level of execution."

He got that - for one day, at least.

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