Prescient Byrd helps Mets fly high past Nats
Right fielder homers twice; solid Gee benefits from offensive outburst
WASHINGTON -- About an hour before Wednesday night's game, Marlon Byrd approached Anthony Recker during batting practice and casually predicted that he would hit two home runs.
"He was dead serious," Recker said, unable to believe it hours later. "He was dead serious, and he did it. I mean, I never -- that's amazing. To call it and then do it? That's amazing."
It may have been the only correct prediction anyone made on this unpredictable night, which saw Byrd's two home runs pace the Mets' 15-hit attack in a 10-1 victory over the Nationals. David Wright also homered, every Mets starter recorded at least one hit, and Dillon Gee again pitched well in his continued bid to retain a rotation spot.
But none of it was as outlandish as Byrd's achievement.
In the lineup only because manager Terry Collins felt his right-handed hitters were best equipped to solve Nats starter Dan Haren, Byrd took a few swings in batting practice before making his prediction. He told Recker that his body was strong, his timing felt sharp -- that all the ingredients were in place for a multihomer game. So he called it.
The first of them came in the second inning, after Lucas Duda doubled. Byrd followed with a two-run shot to left-center field, prompting Recker to approach his teammate in the dugout.
"I said, 'Really? You still got one more to go,'" the backup catcher recalled. "He said, 'I know. It's coming.'"
One inning later, Byrd mashed a solo homer off Haren to give the Mets a four-run lead.
"I didn't think it was going to happen," Byrd admitted. "That's teammates talking trash. That it happened was just something crazy."
Novelty aside, it was also something the Mets very much needed. For most of the past month, this team has endured a nightly slog of razor-thin margins, stressful games and late-inning turns of events. Rarely have the Mets enjoyed the type of blowout win that Wednesday provided.
This one was effectively over by the fifth, when Recker's bases-loaded, two-out single plated two. By that point, Haren was already out of the game after giving up five runs in four innings, including Wright's two-run homer in the third. But the Mets simply kept on roaring, adding three more in the seventh on RBI doubles by Recker and Daniel Murphy, and a run-scoring single from Gee.
All nine Mets starters recorded at least one hit, while more than half of them enjoyed multihit games. That included center fielder Juan Lagares, who finished with a career-high three.
"We needed that bad," Collins said. "We have certainly been in our share of close games all year, being on both ends of it. To have a game where we can just take a deep breath and relax a little bit was certainly welcomed and needed right now."
It resulted in a rare stress-free night for Gee, who kept pace with Jeremy Hefner in the rotation competition. With top prospect Zack Wheeler due up any week now, Gee and Hefner have been openly battling for the right to keep their jobs. Trading strong outings last week at Yankee Stadium, they mirrored those performances in Washington.
Though Gee may not have been as sharp as Hefner this time through the rotation, he proved equally as effective. After Denard Span doubled to lead off the first and Ian Desmond plated him with a single, Gee responded with six straight scoreless innings. Growing stronger as the game went on, he retired 11 of the final 12 batters he faced.
"Me personally, I felt like I saw a lot of good pitches to hit," Span said. "We hit a lot of balls hard right at people. But he made pitches when he needed to."
"I can't be satisfied," Gee said. "I've got to continue to do it. It feels good to do it again, give the team a chance to win, and the guys did an awesome job scoring a bunch of runs. Thankfully I was able to keep them there."
And so the Mets remained a mystery -- winning five straight over the first-place Braves and Yankees, losing four in a row to the historically bad Marlins and scuffling Nats, then snapping that funk with a dominant victory behind their fifth starter and their amateur Nostradamus.
Surprising things happen even on nights when they do what's predicted. More a curiosity than anything, Byrd's prophecy provided a light moment in what has been a dark stretch for the Mets.
It was also an important moment, all things considered.
"That's amazing," a still-befuddled Recker said long after it happened. "He called it. You don't see that very often."