NEW YORK (AP) - Mets rookie Eric Campbell earned a start in left field because of his bat. He should be getting even more playing time because of his glove.
In his first career major league game in the outfield, Campbell doubled Yasiel Puig off second base after making a spectacular diving catch in the eighth that helped preserve New York’s 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday night.
“As it always goes, put a guy in for his offense and his defense saves the game,” manager Terry Collins said.
Campbell had a sacrifice fly in the first inning and is hitting .368 in his first eight big league games. Collins said he is going to use the versatile 27 year old who plays mostly at the corner infield spots at second base and shortstop, too.
Campbell, who even worked out a bit behind the plate to be the Mets emergency catcher with Travis d’Arnaud on the 7-day concussion list, is ready.
“I can handle it,” Campbell said of playing second and short. “Just fielding a groundball and throwing to first.”
Jonathon Niese (3-3) hit an RBI double to provide himself some much-needed run support and pitched seven sharp innings for New York, which won for just the sixth time in 20 games this month and avoided a three-game sweep. Juan Lagares had a go-ahead RBI single in the seventh.
The dynamic yet, at times, frustrating Puig made a sensational catch of his own on a sinking liner to right-center that was so good it elicited a warm ovation from the 23,416 in attendance. But he made two baserunning mistakes that could have cost the Dodgers runs.
“That’s one of the best catches I’ve ever seen,” Campbell said. “That was crazy.”
Zack Greinke’s stretch of 21 straight starts allowing two or fewer runs ended. A mark that hasn’t been matched since at least 1914 was done in by some sloppy play.
“Just in my experience, we’ve played incredible defense when I’m pitching throughout the years,” Greinke said, “so, if someone makes one mistake in one game, you can’t really say too much.”
Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp bobbled Curtis Granderson’s drive in the first inning to right-center, allowing Granderson to take third base on a double in a 12-pitch at-bat. Granderson then scored on Campbell’s sacrifice fly.
In the fifth, third baseman Justin Turner failed to glove Daniel Murphy’s slow grounder that allowed Niese to score for a 3-1 lead.
Niese reached on a well-struck RBI double to right-center following Anthony Recker’s double to a similar spot.
Greinke was lifted after five, yielding four hits, three runs - one earned - two walks and four Ks. He has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 22 games.
Niese then walked Chone Figgins, playing in place of Dee Gordon, to start the sixth. Figgins advanced to second on Puig’s grounder to third when Murphy, the second baseman, dropped Wright’s force attempt - the call was upheld by replay. But Niese escaped unscathed when Puig ran into an out on an infield fly gone awry.
Hanley Ramirez hit a high popup to second base. Murphy backed up under the ball but appeared to lose it in the lights. When the ball fell, Murphy hesitated and Puig jogged into second. Apparently thinking he was forced out, Puig wandered off second and was tagged out for the double play.
“I didn’t actually see the umpire give the signal,” Puig said through a translator. “I felt it was a little bit too late and, by that time, I was already off the base. I thought it was going to be a double play and I was already off in that situation.”
The Dodgers tied it in the seventh, though, when Turner hit his first homer with the Dodgers after spending parts of four seasons with the Mets.
“He’s welcome for that one,” Niese said, joking. “For that one, just a mistake that he punched.”
Lagares’ RBI single off Chris Perez (0-2) s gave the Mets back the lead in the seventh. Granderson tripled in a run in the eighth for a 5-3 lead.
Niese had received just five runs of support total in his previous four home starts. The left-hander has not allowed more than three earned runs in 12 starts.
Jenrry Mejia pitched the ninth for his second save. He pitched a scoreless ninth Wednesday night making this his first back-to-back appearances since moving to the bullpen this month.
NOTES: D’Arnaud (7-day concussion DL) was scheduled to do some on-field work before the game. If all goes well he should take batting practice on the field Friday. … Up next: The Dodgers head to Philadelphia on Friday and the Mets play host to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
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