NEW YORK — Catcher Kevin Plawecki trotted onto the field, shook hands with umpire crew chief Jerry Meals and promptly bounced a practice throw down to second base.
“A little bit nervous,” Plawecki said.
Maybe, but it never showed in his big league debut. Plawecki contributed with his bat and glove as the banged-up New York Mets won their ninth straight game, beating the Atlanta Braves 7-1 on April 21.
A highly regarded prospect, Plawecki got two hits, scored twice and threw out a runner trying to advance on a ball in the dirt. “Just happy to have the first one out of the way,” he said. “Just happy it came out the way it did.”
The Mets extended their longest winning streak since a 10-game run in 2008. The team record is 11, last done in 1990.
Curtis Granderson drove in his first four runs of the season and Jonathon Niese (2-0) pitched shutout ball into the seventh inning, helping the Mets stretch the best home start in club history to 8-0 at Citi Field.
“We’ve got good players. We’ve got good players coming,” manager Terry Collins said.
Plawecki was promoted from Triple-A earlier in the day to replace catcher Travis d’Arnaud, out for at least three weeks after breaking a finger when he was hit by a pitch April 19.
The Mets lost reliever Jerry Blevins to a broken forearm in the same game, and are still minus injured third baseman David Wright.
D’Arnaud took Plawecki out for dinner during an April 20 day off, telling the 24-year-old minor leaguer that he was ready for the majors. D’Arnaud often talked to Plawecki during the game, offering encouragement.
Plawecki, drafted by the Mets in 2012 from Purdue with a compensation pick they got for losing Jose Reyes to free agency, did more than fine in front of a rooting section that included his parents, his fiance, college and high school teammates and former coaches.
Mom Lynne and dad Jeff made the trip from Westfield, Indiana, in the morning. Watching her son, she said, it was easy to flash back in her mind “to him as a 4-year-old boy, hitting balls in the driveway.”
The souvenir ball from Plawecki’s first hit was in his locker, and headed to his parents. “From the time he could walk, all he wanted to do was hit balls,” his dad said.
Plawecki lined out in his first at-bat, and later admitted he was just hoping to make contact. He grounded a single to left field for his first hit and fueled the big fifth, scoring on Granderson’s two-run single.
In the sixth, Plawecki pounced on a pitch that bounced away and threw out Andrelton Simmons at second. Plawecki singled again in the eighth and scored on a double by Granderson, his first extra-base hit this year.
“Good for him. Got a couple hits and made a nice play on a ball in the dirt and threw out Simmons at second,” Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “We’ve heard a lot of good stuff about him with the bat and he proved that he could swing it a little bit.”
The Braves, meanwhile, hurt themselves. They had made only one error in their first 12 games before committing two — second baseman Phil Gosselin fumbled a potential double-play grounder by Niese, keying a four-run burst in the fifth inning.
Niese blanked the Braves until his 100th pitch, which Cameron Maybin hit for a two-out home run in the seventh. Umpires originally held Maybin at second base, then let him trot home after a replay review.
Mets reliever Alex Torres ended the seventh with a 5-1 lead by striking out Freddie Freeman with two runners on, the third time the Atlanta cleanup man fanned.
Niese gave up four hits, struck out five and walked four. Trevor Cahill (0-2) was chased in the fifth. He has lost six straight decisions dating to last season with Arizona.
(BEN WALKER, AP Baseball Writer)