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Duda's three-run blast pushes Mets past Marlins

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- Before Friday, the last time Lucas Duda hit a home run with someone on base was April 3, when Duda appeared entrenched as the New York Mets' starting left fielder.

He'll need a few more homers like the one he delivered Friday to earn a chance at working his way back into the team's long-term plans.

Duda's three-run homer with two outs in the sixth inning gave the Mets their first lead in five days and lifted New York to a 4-3 win over the Miami Marlins in front of a sparse crowd at Citi Field.

The Mets, who hadn't led since scoring the winning run in the ninth inning of a 2-1 win over the Cleveland Indians on Sunday, snapped a four-game losing streak and won for just the third time in their past 12 games.

"Big swing for us," Mets manager Terry Collins said of Duda's homer. "It was a big game for us to win."

It was an even bigger individual win for Duda, who started 56 of the Mets' first 70 games in left field before he suffered a left intercostal strain on June 22. Eric Young established himself as the Mets' left fielder and leadoff hitter in the absence of Duda, who was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas upon completing his rehab assignment Aug. 7.

The Mets recalled Duda on Aug. 24, but he didn't have a place to play until first baseman Ike Davis suffered a season-ending oblique injury on Aug. 31. Duda, who has admitted he's much more comfortable at first base than in left field, has started 11 of the Mets' 12 games since then and is hitting .268 with two homers and seven RBIs in 41 at-bats over that span.

With Davis having hit just .219 over the last two seasons, a good September by Duda could vault him into the picture at first base in 2014.

"This is his chance to play every day at first base -- that's his position, that's where he likes to play," Collins said. "Here's his shot to say, 'Hey, look, I'm going to be a legitimate candidate. You're going to have to think about me next year at that spot.'"

Duda said he's not viewing the final weeks of the season as an audition for next year.

"I'm just more concerned with winning and playing well," Duda said. "Whatever they do is up to them. Just going to play hard, have fun and hopefully continue to win."

Duda's last 11 big-league homers were solo shots before he hammered a 2-2 offering from Brad Hand deep into the right field seats. He entered the at-bat hitting just .196 in 112 at-bats with runners on base.

It was the 42nd career homer for Duda, but only his third three-run blast and his 13th with at least one runner on base.

"He's a big strong guy, everybody expects him to hit homers," Collins said. "I just expect him to drive runs in, and I think that swing tonight might get him really started here in the last couple weeks."

Andrew Brown hit a solo homer in the second for the Mets (65-81).

Duda's homer made a winner out of Jonathan Niese, who allowed three runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings. He issued no walks while striking out seven. Niese wriggled out of trouble in the fifth, when the Marlins took a 2-1 lead on three straight one-out hits, before Niese induced Hand to bunt into a 1-6-4 double play.

LaTroy Hawkins, the Mets' fifth pitcher, earned his ninth save with a 1-2-3 ninth that included a warning track fly out to center field by Justin Ruggiano.

Giancarlo Stanton hit two solo homers for the Marlins (54-92), who have lost seven of nine. Donovan Solano had an RBI double in the fifth inning, while Ed Lucas finished with two hits and a run.

Hand (0-1) allowed four runs on five hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings.

"They got the three-run homer and the two homers from Stanton were solo shots," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "That ended up being the difference. The big home run was a bigger number."

NOTES: Mets 3B David Wright (right hamstring strain) ramped up his baseball activities Friday, when he moved from side to side and charged ground balls prior to batting practice. Wright, who was hurt on Aug. 2, is hoping to return to the Mets next week. ... New York INF Justin Turner, who strained his right hamstring while scoring a run in Tuesday night's loss to the Nationals, will likely be out through the weekend. ... Marlins RHP Nathan Eovaldi, who was scratched from his scheduled start Thursday due to a stiff back, was feeling better Friday. Redmond said he didn't know when Eovaldi would start next. ... Miami C Jeff Mathis (bruised right thumb) is expected to swing in the batting cage Saturday. He hasn't played since Tuesday.
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