NEW YORK (AP) — The season is off to an unexpected start for the New York Mets. They're the ones getting big hits while their opponents make the crucial mistakes.
Daniel Murphy singled home the winning run in the ninth inning and the undefeated Mets took advantage of a throwing error by reliever Henry Rodriguez to beat the Washington Nationals 4-3 on Monday night.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit his first major league homer for the Mets, who are 4-0 for the first time since 2007. After a surprising sweep of Atlanta, New York rallied from a three-run deficit before a crowd of 23,970. Several fans filed out chanting "Undefeated! Undefeated!"
"Everybody is excited. We know that it's a long year, but we want to show our fans that maybe we are better than everyone expects us to be," manager Terry Collins said. "It's never about the effort with these guys."
Coming off three straight losing seasons since Citi Field opened, the Mets were projected by most to finish last in the NL East this year. But they did upgrade the bullpen last winter and they received another excellent effort Monday from a retooled unit that ranked 28th in the majors in 2011 with a 4.33 ERA.
Miguel Batista got out of trouble in the sixth, Ramon Ramirez escaped a seventh-inning jam with a double-play ball and Jon Rauch (1-0) worked two hitless innings for his first win with New York. Mets relievers are 2-0 with a 0.68 ERA in 13 1-3 innings.
Pinch-hitter Mike Baxter drew a leadoff walk from Rodriguez (0-1) in the ninth and Ruben Tejada sacrificed with two strikes. Rodriguez looked at second, then threw low to first and the ball got by second baseman Danny Espinosa.
"I'm strong, so sometimes I throw sidearm and the ball moves," Rodriguez said.
New third base coach Tim Teufel initially waved Baxter all the way around, but he threw up a late stop sign and Baxter slipped to the turf as he tried to slam on the brakes halfway down the line. He got back to his feet and scrambled back to third, barely beating Espinosa's perfect throw across the diamond.
"The only thing I wanted to make sure is, I didn't want to make that long throw, you know, throw behind him and have him get up and go straight (home)," Espinosa said. "So I wanted to make sure he had kind of a step to commit over there."
Espinosa was shaken up after catching an elbow in the head from Tejada as he ran through the bag, but the Washington second baseman stayed in the game.
"It's just one of those crazy plays where if you just execute from the beginning, it's a little bit better. But things happen," Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said.