The Mets turned back the clock Thursday -- and it worked.

In beating the Cardinals, 4-1, they got a solid day out of 40-year-old rightfielder Bobby Abreu. In his first start since July 25, 2012, with the Dodgers, Abreu finished 1-for-3 with a double.

"I feel like I never left," said Abreu, who is restarting his career with the Mets after sitting out last season.

After a year away, Abreu admitted to feeling some emotions, especially during his first at-bat. But he settled in to collect his first hit since he began his comeback, an opposite-field double in the fifth against Lance Lynn.

"That's the Bobby Abreu that everybody knows," manager Terry Collins said.

Abreu will be the Mets' primary bat off the bench. But to keep him sharp, Collins said he wants to start Abreu at least once a week. That means playing the field, as Abreu did with no issues for seven innings behind the winning pitcher, 40-year-old Bartolo Colon.

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"It's good to be productive and be there for Bartolo," Abreu said. "It's two veterans who have played this game for a long time."

Extra bases

After a rough beginning to the season, lefty specialist Scott Rice has bounced back. He has retired 10 of his last 11 batters and stranded 13 of 15 inherited runners. In squelching a Cardinals rally, Rice got Matt Adams to ground out in the eighth inning, stranding a pair of runners . . . Lucas Duda went 0-for-4 in his first start in the cleanup spot since the trade of Ike Davis . . . Collins said he didn't notice Lynn reaching for a dark spot on the bill of his cap. "I'm not going to start an epidemic here," Collins said a day after Michael Pineda's pine tar incident.

With Laura Albanese