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Mets' defense covers for slow offense

David Wright leaves the field after the game

David Wright leaves the field after the game on Sunday, April 27, 2014. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

While the Mets' offense rummages around for some real punch, the team has found at least a temporary cure for its common-cold bats. The most obvious evidence during Sunday's 4-0 victory over the Miami Marlins -- in conjunction with sound pitching -- was the three-foot scuff mark that David Wright left in the warning track 30 feet beyond third base in foul ground.

With one on and one out in the fourth inning, Miami's Casey McGehee lofted a pop-up toward that spot, in the gusting winds, just a couple of feet from the tarpaulin rolled up against the stands along the leftfield line.

The Mets were ahead 1-0 at the time. No safe harbor, surely, after blowing a 5-1 fourth-inning lead the night before.

Wright turned and ran full-tilt, his back to the plate. He briefly took his eye off the ball to get his bearings, then made a sliding, over-the-head catch.

"You don't catch that ball," manager Terry Collins said, "you don't know what happens following that. And sometimes it takes a little starch out of the other team when you make those plays."

Sure enough, Miami wouldn't get another hit until the seventh inning, on the only poor defensive play the Mets have made in days: Jarrod Saltalamacchia's leadoff pop fell harmlessly, about 25 feet from home plate, with pitcher Dillon Gee waiting for one of his infielders, who were off in the distance because of the lopsided defensive shift.

"I should've caught it," Gee said. "I should've taken charge."

Soon enough, though, the Mets turned a double play to end the inning. And their early-season theme of living off exceptional defense, while waiting for the offense to go from slumbering to laying on the lumber, persists.

"We're not exactly ripping the cover off the ball," said Wright, who doubled home a run in four trips Sunday but was fully aware that the Mets entered the weekend ranked at or near the bottom of the majors in multiple offensive categories.

How are the Mets 14-11 with sleepy bats?

"It's not the offense right now," said Chris Young, whose two-run home run in the fifth inning gave a little life to a batting average that rests overnight at .194. "The middle infield has been doing a great job, making some great plays lately, and everybody is trying to keep the game in control."

Collins meant Young, among others, in saying, "Offensively, we've got to start getting some production out of some guys. But we caught the ball outstanding again today."

That began with Daniel Murphy's barehanded running pickup to throw out Marcell Ozuna on the second play of the game. Wright made a nifty backhand stop to start a fourth-inning force play one batter before he showed the Marlins some magic with his over-the-head beauty.

"I was fortunate I guessed right where the ball was going to be. Then it was just a matter of hoping that tarp doesn't sneak up on you," he said. "When you're putting up three, four runs, you've got to play good defense."

To prove it, he left his mark on the warning track.

New York Sports