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Rookies combine for learning experiece -- a Mets' win

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- As two of the 11 rookies on the New York Mets' roster this month, Vic Black and Travis d'Arnaud have spent a lot of time getting to know each other while traveling on buses and planes and sitting in the nonprime seats that are always reserved for rookies.

A memorable Sunday afternoon at Citi Field ensures the duo will have plenty to talk about when the Mets hit the road for the final time this season later this week.

Black earned his first big league win Sunday, when d'Arnaud's first career walk-off hit -- a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the 12th inning -- lifted the Mets to a 1-0 win over the Miami Marlins.

"To have him come up like that was huge for the team and then him," Black said. "And of course it's always exciting to get your first win. First of many, hopefully."

The 12th inning provided another bonding moment for a pair of players who have hit it off over the past few weeks. The Mets recalled d'Arnaud from Triple-A Las Vegas on Aug. 16 while Black joined the Mets 13 days later, when he was acquired from Pittsburgh as the player to be named later in the trade that sent Marlon Byrd and John Buck -- the latter of whom was d'Arnaud's predecessor as the Mets' starting catcher -- to the Pirates.

"Catchers -- you've got to learn them, they've got to learn you, especially when you've never been with them and you show up now," Black said. "It's like, hey, we've got a crash course. Let's figure this out and hit any speed bumps along the way."

Black and d'Arnaud had plenty of those conversations during their first road trip together, a nine-game trip to Washington, Atlanta and Cleveland from Aug. 31 through Sept. 8.

"There's only so many places we can go on a bus or on an airplane," Black said with a grin. "We're kind of stuck together. Even if there's 15 open rows, we're still sitting side-by-side, which is part of it. You've got to earn it."

Black and d'Arnaud are just two of the many young players getting an opportunity this month to prove to the Mets -- who are assured of their fifth straight losing season -- that they can be a part of the next contending team in Queens.

The win Sunday provided a glimpse into what manager Terry Collins likes to call the "process" -- an often-frustrating but essential experience that must be endured by both the players and the team.

The Mets didn't draw a walk until rookie Juan Lagares led off the 12th by working a five-pitch free pass from Zach Phillips (0-1). Daniel Murphy singled Lagares to third and Lucas Duda walked to load the bases.

Ryan Webb came on and induced grounders by rookie Zach Lutz and Andrew Brown that forced Lagares and Murphy at home. d'Arnaud then hit a 1-1 pitch just past a diving Adeiny Hechavarria to bring home Duda and give the Mets their third win in the four-game series.

It was the second straight hit for d'Arnaud, who didn't get the ball out of the infield in his first three at-bats but saw 12 pitches in the at-bats.

"It's about the process itself," Collins said. "And that's why you see good at-bats, you see them work the count, you see them taking a better swing, you see them starting to use the two-strike approach."

Black, who threw a perfect top of the 12th in his third appearance in as many days, led the charge out of the dugout toward d'Arnaud, who entered Sunday with just 16 hits in his first 72 at-bats.

"It was a big win (to win) the series," d'Arnaud said. "Try(ing) to lead the Mets in the right direction. I was just real excited I got the hit."

Murphy also had two hits for the Mets (67-82), who received 7 1/3 shutout innings from starter Dillon Gee. He allowed six hits and two walks while striking out eight.

Justin Ruggiano, Logan Morrison and Ed Lucas all had two hits for the Marlins (55-94), who only got six runners into scoring position on Sunday and only one as far as third base.

Marlins starter Tom Koehler, a native of nearby New Rochelle, N.Y., allowed just three hits and no walks while striking five out over a career-high eight shutout innings.

"You know that going into a day like this it's going to be dicey because of the doubleheader (Saturday) -- the guys are tired, it's a day game, you know that runs are going to be at a premium," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "The one thing you really need is a good pitching performance. Both teams got that."

NOTES: The Mets have their last scheduled off-day of the season Monday while the Marlins continue a stretch of 21 games in 20 days by heading to Philadelphia for a three-game series. Miami's next scheduled off-day is not until Sept. 26. ... The extra-inning game was the 18th for both teams. The Mets are 8-10 while the Marlins are 5-13. ... Mets RHP Frank Francisco (bruised right thumb) won't be available for three or four days after he was hit by a line drive off the bat of the Marlins' Logan Morrison in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader. ... Lucas started at shortstop in place of Hechavarria, who didn't start for the first time since July 31. Hechavarria has appeared in each of the Marlins' last 121 games.
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