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Francisco saves Mets' victory despite boos

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- Frank Francisco heard the boos in the ninth inning at Citi Field on Monday, as he threatened to blow his second straight save.

Earlier, the New York Mets had used a suicide squeeze play, an error and an RBI single to build a three-run lead while starter Miguel Batista and a pair of relievers shut out the Milwaukee Brewers for the first eight innings.

Now, a few hours after Francisco was told by manager Terry Collins he would remain the closer for now -- and a day after Francisco's ninth-inning meltdown helped blow a game while he blew his top on his way to an ejection -- the Mets' closer was nothing but calm, he said later.

He showed it on the mound, earning the save in the Mets' 3-1 win by stranding runners on first and second with one out after coughing up a run.

"Yeah, I love it," a smiling Francisco said matter-of-factly when asked if he heard the boos. "Because later on they're gonna clap for me. I guarantee you that. ... That's me, seriously. I love the challenge. If you don't fight, you're gonna live in the hole forever."

Daniel Murphy provided most of the scoring, driving in a run in the first with a single and scoring one on a suicide squeeze a few innings after the Mets thwarted Milwaukee's attempt at one.

Batista (1-1) limited the Brewers to four hits and one walk while striking out five in seven shutout innings. He revealed after the game he injured his right groin a few days ago, but said he did not think it would affect his next start because he doesn't usually feel pain from the injury.

Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo (2-4) took the loss despite allowing just two runs on two hits and six walks in six innings, as Milwaukee wasted early opportunities and did not score until Corey Hart's RBI single in the ninth.

"Not very good. We had chances the first two innings and let him off the hook, and he got confident and started making pitches," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said of Batista. "(When) we get runners in scoring position, we're not taking at-bats I know we can."

The starters dueled so effectively that both teams attempted one-out suicide squeeze plays with the bottom of their order up.

The Mets thwarted Milwaukee's attempt, while New York's No. 7 hitter, Ronny Cedeno, was able to score Murphy on his try in the sixth inning.

Murphy, who had doubled to lead off the inning, sprinted home as Cedeno dropped his bunt down the first-base line.

"I was just trying not to jump over there like a maniac and give it away," said Murphy, who extended his hitting streak to a career-high 10 games with an RBI single in the first. The Mets added their third run when David Wright doubled to lead off the eighth and eventually scored when Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez dropped the ball for an error during a rundown.

Tim Byrdak and Bobby Parnell combined on a scoreless eighth for the Mets.

Francisco, who coughed up the Mets' two-run lead in their loss to the Miami Marlins on Sunday, was booed as he allowed a run in the ninth on Hart's one-out single. However, after walking Taylor Green, he retired the next two batters for his ninth save a few hours after Collins expressed his faith in him.

"The most important thing is that he trusts," Francisco said of Collins, who has his young, injury-plagued team off to a surprising 20-15 start. "Not just me, but he trusts everyone here. ... That's why we are where we are."

The Brewers couldn't take advantage of getting their leadoff man to third in the second, as the Mets cut off a run on the failed squeeze play. Green singled and right fielder Lucas Duda's diving attempt failed, allowing Green to advance to third on his error.

Batista came back to strike out Brooks Conrad for the first out, before No. 8 hitter Cesar Izturis was called on to attempt a suicide squeeze with the pitcher on deck.

With Green running on the pitch, Izturis dropped a bunt down the third-base line, but it fell short. Mets catcher Mike Nickeas pounced on it and Green quickly attempted to retreat.

But Nickeas threw to third baseman Wright, who tagged Green out.

"He must have hit it off the end of the bat, or something," Roenicke said. "But he killed it instead of getting it down firm."

NOTES: Left fielder Jason Bay (fractured left rib) saw a team doctor Monday and said after the game he could begin baseball activities Tuesday. ... Mets catcher Rob Johnson, who bruised his left thumb after taking a foul tip off it Sunday, was expected to be available in an emergency. The Mets are still without catcher Josh Thole, who sustained a concussion last week. ... New York first baseman Ike Davis returned to the lineup Monday after sitting out Sunday with what Davis said he believed was food poisoning. ... Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks, who was hit by a pitch on his left hand Friday night, was out of the starting lineup for the third straight game. He grounded out as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning.
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