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Throw-in John Buck continues to lead Mets' offense in win over Marlins

Mets catcher John Buck watches his sacrifice fly

Mets catcher John Buck watches his sacrifice fly ball to right to score David Wright against the Miami Marlins in the seventh inning at Citi Field. (April 6, 2013) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

John Buck knows the score.

The 32-year-old veteran understands that the Mets possess a catcher-in-waiting in Travis d'Arnaud. And if Buck had yet to wrap his mind around his situation, it would have been impossible to avoid it at Citi Field Saturday, when the Mets gave away calendars featuring prominent players. Fans who flipped through it surely would have noticed the glossy photo of d'Arnaud -- or Mr. January 2014.

Buck, meanwhile, was nowhere to be found. But that didn't stop him from announcing his presence again during the Mets' 7-3 victory over the Marlins in which he knocked in four runs. His nine RBIs lead the National League.

"It feels good," said Buck, who is hitting .421 after finishing 1-for-2 with a pair of sacrifice flies. "You want to keep going with the momentum and just keep having good at-bats."

The Mets expect big things from David Wright, Ike Davis and Lucas Duda -- the middle of the order. But while they wait, the Mets have benefited from Buck's production, a pleasant surprise after he hit a career-low .192 for the Marlins last season.

With Buck calling pitches, lefthander Jon Niese allowed one earned run in six innings, a good enough effort to keep the Mets in the game.

Buck put the Mets in the lead with a two-run double in the sixth, though the Marlins tied it at 3 on Greg Dobbs' run-scoring single in the seventh. But the Mets went ahead for good with three runs in the seventh on an RBI triple by Daniel Murphy, a run-scoring single by Wright and Buck's second sacrifice fly of the afternoon.

"He's been a great situational hitter," Wright said. "Even that last at-bat, he fought off some tough pitches and did exactly what we needed him to do, get a medium-range fly ball."

A year after Buck said little seemed to break his way, he has found instant success with the Mets, who acquired him as an additional piece in the R.A. Dickey trade during the offseason. It was the same transaction that brought d'Arnaud, the centerpiece of the deal.

But Buck has established his leadership as catcher and his bat remains potent. "We said look, if this guy is the catcher that everybody says he is and he hits 15 to 20 home runs, that's a huge increase from what we had at that position," Terry Collins said. "That's going to help make us better."

Mets catchers totaled only five homers last year, the lowest in baseball. They knocked in only 48 runs, second lowest in the game. Through five games, Buck has two homers and nine RBIs on his own.

Once d'Arnaud proves himself ready to make the final jump to the majors, he will be summoned from Triple-A Las Vegas to take Buck's place.

But Buck has faced a similar situation before, when the Blue Jays chose to go with rising prospect J.P. Arencibia. The experience taught Buck not to squander whatever time may remain. And he remains in contact with d'Arnaud, texting him with advice he might use once he reaches the big leagues.

"It's so far away, there's so much baseball to be played, it's a waste of time for me to even think about it," Buck said. "Obviously, that helps me stay focused on what I'm doing here."

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