NEW YORK -- After signing an eight-year, $138 million extension over the winter, David Wright is the Mets' franchise player. But for the first week of the season, catcher John Buck has been their marquee attraction -- literally.
Buck continued his torrid start with four RBI on Saturday. And he was the recipient of a bizarre, rarely seen instance of runner's interference at home plate in the seventh inning of the Mets' 7-3 win over the Miami Marlins at Citi Field.
Buck has a hit in all five games this season and is hitting .421 (8-for-19) with an NL-high nine RBI. He hit .192 and had just 41 RBI in 343 at-bats last year for the Marlins, who traded him to the Blue Jays in the Jose Reyes blockbuster before Toronto dealt him to the Mets in exchange for reigning Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey.
So far, though, it's Buck who looks like the superstar. After his two-run double in the sixth inning gave the Mets a 3-2 lead, the scoreboard flashed Buck's picture with the words "Bang for the buck!" And it was his image that accompanied Sunday's game information on TV screens in the lobbies of Citi Field late Saturday afternoon.
"I think John came here, obviously, after a tough year in Miami last year and I think he has something to prove, not just to himself but to everybody else that he's a good offensive player besides being just a so-called defensive guy," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "John has just done a good job, period."
A nine-year big league veteran who entered this season with a .235 career average, Buck is excited by his fast start, but also experienced enough to know success can be fleeting.
"I've been around long enough to know it's a long season," Buck said. "Want to keep [going] but keep an even keel. Obviously it feels good to start like this."
As impressive as Buck has been at the plate, the big topic of conversation after the game Saturday was his role in the runner's interference that ended a Marlins threat and set the stage for the Mets' tie-breaking rally in the bottom of the inning.
With the speedy Juan Pierre at second base, Marlins first baseman Greg Dobbs laced a single to right field. Pierre scored standing up to tie the game 3-3, but the errant throw from right fielder Mike Baxter forced Buck to go about 15 feet to his right.
Buck and Pierre collided as Buck wound up throwing to second in hopes of getting Dobbs. Home plate umpire Jim Joyce -- who, as the first base umpire in Armando Galarraga's "imperfect game," is no stranger to bizarre plays -- immediately called Dobbs out because of Pierre's interference.
"Unless I threw it away, I would have had [Dobbs]," Buck said.
Collins said he'd never seen anything like that in 42 years in professional baseball. Buck said Joyce told him he'd never called a play like that.
"See something new every day," Pierre said "Essentially, [the Mets] got awarded for making a bad throw. Tough break because that's a guy on second."
The Mets didn't waste much time taking advantage of the break. With one out in the seventh, Baxter walked, stole second and went to third when Miguel Olivo's throw sailed into center field. He scored easily on Daniel Murphy's triple and Murphy came home on Wright's single past a drawn-in infield.
Wright then stole second and went to third on another throwing error by Olivo. Following an intentional walk to Ike Davis, Buck brought Wright home with his second sacrifice fly of the afternoon.
Collin Cowgill hit a home run in the eighth inning for the Mets' final run.
Wright had three hits and two runs scored while Baxter scored twice and reached base three times in his first start of the season. Davis, who was 1-for-16 in the Mets' first four games, had two hits, including a single immediately before Buck's two-run double.
Brandon Lyon earned the win with a scoreless eighth. The pitcher of record at the time the Mets took the lead was Josh Edgin, but he allowed the game-tying RBI single to Dobbs, the only batter he faced.
Mets starter Jonathon Niese lasted six innings for the 22nd straight time, the longest active streak in the bigs. Niese gave up two runs, one earned, on eight hits and two walks while striking out five.
"He pitched well," Buck said of Niese. "Did exactly what a No. 1 should do -- take you deep into a game."
Dobbs had a pair of RBI singles, Pierre scored two runs and had two hits and Olivo and Giancarlo Stanton each recorded two hits for the Marlins, who led 1-0 in the first and 2-1 in the fifth.
Ryan Webb took the loss after allowing three runs -- all in the seventh -- in 1 2/3 innings. Marlins relievers have allowed 14 runs (12 earned) in just 13 1/3 innings of work against the Nationals and Mets.
"Not the best pitching conditions, but not also not the best hitting conditions," Webb said. "It's an even playing field. We've got to work through it."
Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco allowed three runs on six hits and three walks while striking out three in 5 1/3 innings.
Notes: The red-hot Buck will get a day off Sunday when he sits in favor of backup catcher Anthony Recker, who has yet to record a plate appearance. ... Niese has lasted at least six innings in 28 of his last 32 starts dating back to the beginning of last season. ... Olivo also committed two errors in a game last April 29, when he was playing for the Seattle Mariners against the Toronto Blue Jays. ... Marlins bench coach Rob Leary interrupted Redmond's pregame news conference to present the manager with the lineup card from his first big league win the night before. Other Marlins coaches such as hitting coach Tino Martinez applauded as Redmond took the card. "That'll be in my office," Redmond said as he carefully placed it next to him in the dugout. "That's pretty cool."