John Buck's grand slam helps lead Mets past Twins
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MINNEAPOLIS -- As snowflakes swirled over Target Field, John Buck drove another ball deep into the air to join them.
Buck and the New York Mets sure didn't let the wintry Minnesota night slow down their swings.
Buck kept up his powerful start with a grand slam, his fourth home run in the past four games, and the Mets beat the Twins 16-5 on Friday.
"You're almost starting to take it for granted," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "When you need a big hit, he's going to get it. And he's going to drive in runs when he gets his hit. It's just amazing, one night after the next."
Buck became only the fourth major league player in at least 92 years to reach 19 RBIs in the first 10 games of a season, according to STATS research dating to 1921. Chris Davis did it for Baltimore this year, Manny Ramirez for Cleveland in 1999 and Lou Gehrig for the Yankees in 1927.
In his first two weeks with the Mets after being traded twice during the offseason, Buck already has six homers. His career high is 20. He also has the most RBIs in history by a player in his first 10 games with a new team.
"I'm benefiting from last year. I just tried too hard," Buck said, recalling his .192 batting average for Miami in 2012. "Now I'm just going up there and trying to hit the ball solid, and good things are happening."
Jonathon Niese (2-0) lasted only five innings in the frigid weather, ending his streak of 22 consecutive starts of six or more that dated to last June. That was the longest current run in the majors. He threw 101 pitches, giving up five hits, five runs (four earned) and four walks while striking out one.
"The balls, they felt like pool cues out there. They were slippery," said Buck, who told Niese to ditch his cutter because he couldn't hang onto it.
David Wright drove in four runs and missed the cycle by a home run, Daniel Murphy had four hits and four RBIs and the Mets didn't let the wintry conditions hurt their offense in any way. They overwhelmed Twins starter Vance Worley (0-2), who got three outs and gave up nine runs.
"It didn't affect the other guys, so it's hard for us to whine about it," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of the cold. "The other guys came out on the other side and whacked the ball around pretty good."
The Mets batted around in each of the first two innings, scoring five times in each frame. The first five batters reached base in both innings. After Worley walked Ike Davis to leave the bases loaded in the second, the short-sleeved right-hander was removed by Gardenhire.
Pedro Hernandez relieved, and Buck drove a full-count pitch into the second deck of seats above left-center field to stretch the lead to 10-2.
The Mets have 14 home runs, at least one in each game. Marlon Byrd, who had two RBIs, missed another by a few inches in the second, settling for a triple.
Considered a throw-in for the Mets when they sent NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to Toronto last December, and also for the Blue Jays when they acquired four other stars in the fire-sale deal with Florida a month earlier, Buck is crouching behind the plate until top prospect Travis d'Arnaud is ready to take over. But the way the 32-year-old catcher has been hitting so far, there should be no rush.
Buck's previous career high for RBIs in a month was 17 in August 2004 with Kansas City. He has 17 games left in April to obliterate that total.
"We're fortunate to have a guy like that, a veteran guy who can handle the pitching staff as well as he does and also handle the bat the way he does, too," Niese said.
Enticed by free coffee and hot cocoa, Twins fans came layered in ski gear, hunting clothes and whatever else to keep warm. The announced attendance was 23,735, but that's tickets sold and not the actual number of people inside. Propane heaters whirred in the dugout, and most players had almost every inch of skin covered.
Except Worley, who prefers to work without sleeves. He allowed seven hits and two walks while striking out one. Seven of the runs he gave up were earned. He has lost a career-worst five straight decisions spanning seven starts since last Aug. 1 for Philadelphia.
"It didn't affect me at all," Worley said. "It was pretty similar to opening day."
Except for the boxscore. Worley's ERA jumped to 10.50. He has allowed 17 runs in 12 innings over three starts.© The Associated Press