Marlon Byrd's walk-off single drives in two, gives Mets 4-3 win over Marlins
On Marlon Byrd's iPad is an app that he uses to fix his hitting mechanics. It allows him to record dozens of practice swings, to break down each one frame by frame, to scrutinize the flaws he must correct through repetition in the cage.
"Gotta get this swing right,'' Byrd said Sunday morning as he scoured videos on his iPad, hours before he delivered a two-run single in the ninth inning that gave the Mets a 4-3 victory over the Marlins.
With the Mets mixing and matching their outfielders, Byrd's name did not appear in the starting lineup for a second straight day. Nevertheless, he reported to Citi Field hours early to work on the swing that later gave the Mets their dramatic walk-off victory.
With one out in the ninth, the tying run on third and the winning run on second, Byrd bounced a single just inside the third-base line. When Kirk Nieuwenhuis touched the plate with the winning run, Byrd stopped in his tracks halfway to second, where he raised his right fist to celebrate his first walk-off since 2008.
"Hopefully, this is the first big one of many in 2013,'' Byrd said. "It's been a good fit.''
In the past, that wouldn't have been the case. Before his suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, before his exile to the Mexican League, before desperation led the Mets to take a flyer on him, he had been an All-Star outfielder with the Cubs. And All-Stars expect to play every day.
But with the Mets, Byrd, 35, is simply a veteran reaching for a few more moments in the sun, just one of six outfielders on the roster vying for playing time.
"I didn't come in here expecting to play every day,'' Byrd said. "I came to help this team in any way possible.''
Manager Terry Collins said he took Byrd's willingness to play winter ball as a sign of his willingness to accept any role.
"He knows he wants to continue to play,'' Collins said. "He knows he has a chance to make a contribution here.''
Though the season is young, Byrd has shown the willingness to make the adjustment, just as he did Sunday.
Jose Fernandez, the 20-year-old Marlins phenom making his big-league debut, held the Mets to one run in five innings and struck out eight.
Byrd didn't enter the game until the fifth inning as part of a double-switch. He struck out twice and stranded a pair of baserunners, part of the reason that the Mets entered the ninth in danger of dropping two of three to the Marlins.
But Mets spot starter Aaron Laffey allowed only three runs, even though he gave up a staggering 10 hits in 41/3 innings. Meanwhile, the revamped Mets bullpen kept the Marlins, who left 12 on base, off the board.
Daniel Murphy's solo shot in the sixth inning brought the Mets within one at 3-2.
The stage was set.
With one out in the ninth, Marlins closer Steve Cishek plunked Ruben Tejada, who noticed when he reached first base that Miami had shifted into no-doubles defense. So when pinch hitter Nieuwenhuis dumped a single in front of leftfielder Juan Pierre, Tejada already had decided he would try for third. The aggressive play paid off when Tejada reached safely and Nieuwenhuis took second on the wide throw to third.
Moments later, Byrd was wiping the whipped cream off his face, his reward for sending the Mets to their first walk-off win of the season.
"Marlon's been great,'' Nieuwenhuis said. "We love him as an addition to the outfield. He's done great things for us so far. He's a great teammate.''