DENVER — What Starling Marte remembered most Saturday afternoon, playing his first game since the unexpected death of the grandmother who raised him, was the prayer she taught him to say before taking the field.
What those around him will remember most is what he did after saying it: He blasted a two-run home run on the first pitch he saw upon returning from the bereavement list.
That was the emotional and statistical highlight of the Mets’ 5-1 win over the Rockies in the first game of their doubleheader. They lost Game 2, 11-3.
“We all just kind of looked at each other and went, ‘Really?’ ” manager Buck Showalter said of Marte’s moment. “You can’t make that stuff up. It’s emotional. I’m glad I had glasses on. I ain’t kidding you. Regardless of the season and the games — win, lose or draw, if you don’t take that in, you need to check your pulse. That’s pretty special.”
After his no-doubt homer off Rockies righthander German Marquez landed a dozen rows beyond the left-centerfield wall, an estimated 444 feet from the plate, Marte pointed skyward as he rounded first base and again once he reached home. Those were his first moments of game action since last Sunday. He had missed the Mets’ previous four contests, having returned to his native Dominican Republic for a couple of days to be with family.
Marte seemed to prefer to publicly downplay the sentimental significance of the feat.
“It meant a lot. It put the team ahead right there from the very beginning, we’re up 2-0 and we ended up taking control of the game at that point,” he said through an interpreter, later adding: “It was special. It’s not that much different from other home runs. But she always supported me.”
Carlos Carrasco (5 1/3 innings, one run) said on his behalf: “I was talking to him. That moment was really special for him. I just want to keep it right there. It was really special for him.”
Brigida Gonzalez raised Marte and his two sisters after their mother died when he was 9. The man he is today — dutiful father, vaunted veteran clubhouse presence and teammate, highly successful baseball player — was shaped by her, he said. They remained very close as he grew up, lived much of the year in the United States and had a family of his own.
“Everything we have today — from our growth, our maturity, everything — we learned it from her,” he said. “She taught us everything.”
When she died Monday, Marte left the Mets to start to grieve. That also meant he was with loved ones on Wednesday, the two-year anniversary of the death of his wife, Noelia, who had a heart attack.
Going back to work didn’t mean he felt better, of course. Showalter said “I don’t think we know” — or could know — Marte’s state of mind upon returning.
“It’s one of those things that’s going to be on my mind for a very long time,” Marte said before the games. “But being around the team, in a sense it is kind of a distraction. But at the same time, it is what it is. You kind of have to go through it. Because things happen in life. We’re going to try to go along with it.”
The Mets (27-15) reached Marquez for five runs (four earned) in six innings. Patrick Mazeika added a two-run double in the second inning, giving the Mets a fast four-run cushion. Francisco Lindor had an RBI single in the sixth but was thrown out at second trying to stretch it into a double.
Carrasco scattered seven hits, struck out four and walked none. The run came after Adam Ottavino inherited a two-on, one-out jam and Jose Iglesias’ dribbler in front of the plate turned into an RBI single.
Pitching in Coors Field’s thin mountain air for the first time, Carrasco initially struggled to adjust.
“It was completely different and weird,” he said. “I was out of breath over there. I took my time between pitches. I think most important I went in there, made my pitches and we won the game.”
Showalter added: “The first inning or two, he was scuffling a little bit. I wasn’t sure what we were going to be able to get there, but he found a way.”
In the second game, Rockies rookie catcher Brian Serven picked up his first two major-league hits: a home run off Trevor Williams and a home run off Adonis Medina.
Colorado (19-20) blew it open with a seven-run rally in the sixth that included five runs against Medina (four outs). That ended Medina’s scoreless streak at 7 1/3 innings. Williams, drawing a start on short rest, gave up four runs in four innings.
It was the Mets’ fifth doubleheader of the season (and fourth of the month).
“It’s been a long day for everybody,” Showalter said. “But we’ve done this before. Get ready to go tomorrow and try to win the series.”