NEW YORK (AP) — Billy Hamilton has been too fast for everyone besides the Mets.
The rookie speedster came off the Cincinnati bench Friday night and tried to steal second in a vital situation, but was thrown out by backup catcher Anthony Recker in a 4-3 loss to New York.
With one out in the eighth inning and the Reds trailing by one, Hamilton entered as a pinch-runner following Brayan Pena’s single.
“He’s out there to get into scoring position. After the first strike it becomes increasingly difficult,” Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said. “We know that he’s going to be a high-percentage base stealer in the major leagues. There are better conditions to run under. It was a perfect pitch and a perfect throw from Recker and they still just got him.”
Lucas Duda hit a pair of two-run homers for the Mets only hours after they gave him the starting job at first base. Jenrry Mejia (1-0) struck out a career-high eight over six innings in a steady rain and mist, pitching New York to its first victory of the season.
Replacement closer Jose Valverde struck out Jay Bruce with two on for the save, and the Mets avoided their first 0-4 start since opening with five consecutive losses in 2005.
“I remember Valverde back in 2009 when he was throwing 99 mph,” Bruce said. “He came right at me tonight. I just missed the one pitch and then he finished me off with the splitter. Pretty typical Valverde.”
Bruce homered and drove in all three runs for the Reds, who had won six straight at Citi Field. Mike Leake (0-1) gave up five hits and three walks in 6 2-3 innings.
“It was the Lucas Duda-Jay Bruce show, and Duda won,” Leake said.
Mets left fielder Eric Young Jr. robbed Brandon Phillips of a home run in the first.
It was the first stolen base attempt of the season for Hamilton, who set a professional baseball record in 2012 with 155 steals combined at Class-A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola. The only other catcher to throw him out in 15 major league tries was Juan Centeno of the Mets on Sept. 25 last year.
Recker entered in a seventh-inning double switch. He said he thought he threw out Hamilton twice in the minors, but didn’t get the call either time even though his shortstop said Hamilton should have been out.
“You know what he’s out there to do, so you get excited,” Recker said. “As soon as he came out there, the first thing I told myself was, run, because I’m going to throw you out. Because you have to have that confidence. But the second thing you say to yourself is, stay within yourself. Don’t try to do too much, just let it happen.”
Rain followed the Reds to New York after they waited through 6 hours, 22 minutes of delays to get in two home games against St. Louis the previous two days.
This one started on time with a temperature of 41 degrees, but the weather never cleared,
Bruce put Cincinnati ahead with an RBI single in the third.
Curtis Granderson beat the shift in the fourth when he grounded a leadoff double inside third base. Duda drove the next pitch into the Mets’ bullpen in right-center.
Duda ripped a line drive over the fence in right in the sixth for his fifth career multihomer game.
Duda is 6 for 8 against Leake.
“He’s a guy that sees me well. It didn’t help that the two pitches he hit weren’t quality pitches,” Leake said.
Bruce cut it to 4-3 in the seventh with a two-run drive off reliever John Lannan.
NOTES: Cincinnati rested Hamilton (0 for 12) and SS Zack Cozart (0 for 11). “For no other reason than trying to make sure that our other guys stay sharp,” Price said. CF Roger Bernadina drew three walks in his first start for Cincinnati, and Ramon Santiago became the 24th Reds shortstop to play next to Phillips. … It was Bruce’s 45th home run off a left-hander since 2010, most among all major league hitters during that span. … RHP Mat Latos (elbow, knee) threw 75 pitches over four innings Thursday night in a rehab start for Double-A Pensacola. He is slated to throw about 90 pitches and six innings next Tuesday for Triple-A Louisville, and if he comes out of that outing feeling good, the Reds are optimistic he could start April 13 against Tampa Bay or right after that against Pittsburgh. … Cincinnati reliever Jonathan Broxton (right forearm) was scheduled to pitch back-to-back days Friday and Saturday for Pensacola. If he gets through that OK, Broxton could join the Reds in St. Louis early next week, Price said. … C Devin Mesoraco (oblique) also is rehabbing at Pensacola.