NEW YORK (AP) — Those pointed boos last summer at Citi Field have turned into a chorus of “Bruuuuce!”
Jay Bruce homered twice and drove in five runs, including a tiebreaking shot in the eighth inning that sent the New York Mets to a 5-4 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies and halted their four-game losing streak Wednesday night.
After slumping badly when he arrived from Cincinnati at the trade deadline last year, Bruce is batting .309 with six homers and 14 RBIs in 14 games for the Mets this season. Back in the clubhouse following his latest clutch performance, the three-time All-Star was in full royal garb, wearing a crown and robe awarded to the team's king of the game.
“It's silk. They give it to me, I'll wear it,” Bruce said.
New York, which lost first baseman Lucas Duda and catcher Travis d'Arnaud to injuries during the game, has not dropped five straight since late 2015.
Once the Mets re-signed slugger Yoenis Cespedes last offseason, creating a crowded outfield, many expected Bruce to be traded away. General manager Sandy Alderson certainly sounded open to it, but nothing materialized and Bruce has rebounded in the Big Apple.
“He is the guy we wanted to get. He's a run producer. He's showing it now. We're lucky to have him still here,” manager Terry Collins said.
New York trailed 2-0 with two outs in the sixth before Bruce lined a three-run homer off frustrated starter Vince Velasquez. Philadelphia pulled even in the eighth, but Cespedes singled leading off the bottom half and Bruce connected again, this time against Edubray Ramos (0-2).
“I'm just playing baseball, trying to be part of this,” Bruce said.
The two homers were strikingly similar, line drives to straightaway right field that landed on protective netting behind the fence.
Following the second one, which gave Bruce his second multihomer game this season, he took a quick curtain call.
“It's not his first one, I can assure you. But I think it shows that the people respect that he is a good player. And I think it's well-deserved,” Collins said. “Obviously last year, with what he went through here, it was great to see them applaud the effort.”
Bruce matched his career high with five RBIs and nearly had another — Cespedes was thrown out at the plate after running through a stop sign at third base on Bruce's first-inning double.
Hansel Robles (3-0) struck out his only batter, and Addison Reed earned his fourth save. Reed allowed a sacrifice fly to pinch-hitter Daniel Nava after Freddy Galvis tripled, then struck out Cesar Hernandez to end it.
Rookie right-hander Robert Gsellman gave up three runs in seven-plus innings. He became the first Mets starter to pitch into the eighth this year.
Velasquez was lifted for a pinch hitter in the seventh. He helped himself with an RBI single but is winless since last July.
“Bruce is just a mistake hitter. You make one mistake, he can turn it around. I'm not going to do that again,” Velasquez said. “It's amazing what one pitch can do.”
Philadelphia got an RBI groundout in the fourth from slumping cleanup hitter Maikel Franco and tied it in the eighth when Aaron Altherr blooped a double and scored on Michael Saunders' two-out bloop single off Jerry Blevins.
Mets: Duda exited in the fifth with a hyperextended left elbow after Hernandez ran into his glove hand on a play at first base. “I guess his range of motion was pretty good afterward. They did some treatment on it,” Collins said. “I've seen how in the past they can be serious. He's going to be sore tomorrow.” Also in the fifth, d'Arnaud bruised his right wrist when he banged it on Altherr's bat while throwing to second on a stolen base. The catcher was replaced by backup Rene Rivera in the seventh. “As the night progressed it started tightening up so I said something,” d'Arnaud explained. “No worries at all, just a short-term thing.” 3B David Wright (neck surgery) went through pregame drills on the field and took batting practice with the team. He played catch for the first time in two or three weeks, Collins said. The oft-injured Mets captain hopes to rebuild strength in his weakened throwing arm. “If David Wright could throw the ball across the infield, he could play today,” Collins said. “It's about getting that arm back and how long that's going to take, no one knows.”
HELP ON THE WAY
All-Star closer Jeurys Familia returns to the Mets on Thursday after sitting out the first 15 games of the season while serving a domestic violence suspension. Collins said he'd like to get Familia into a game right away, but the reliever might be eased back in with a setup role at first.
Before the game, Philadelphia put reliever Pat Neshek on the paternity list and recalled RHP Ben Lively from Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Phillies RHP Aaron Nola (1-0, 3.27 ERA) starts the series finale Thursday night against RHP Noah Syndergaard (1-0, 0.95). Neither pitcher has given up a home run this season. Syndergaard has struck out 20 and walked none in 19 innings despite dealing with a blister and cracked fingernail. He is 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA and 30 strikeouts in four career starts against Philadelphia.