NEW YORK (AP) — Jose Reyes took his first swing and sent a soaring drive to deep left-center. Maybe a home run — or a triple that would send him dashing around the Citi Field bases like so many times before.
Nope, not quite.
Reyes was robbed on a leaping catch by rookie Kirk Nieuwenhuis leading off the game and went hitless Tuesday night for the Miami Marlins in a 2-1 loss to the New York Mets.
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“I thought I had it,” Reyes said. “I guess not.”
A fan favorite during nine seasons with the Mets, Reyes was 0 for 4 in his return to Citi Field after signing a big contract with Miami in December. Lucas Duda lined an RBI single in the eighth inning that caromed off reliever Edward Mujica and put New York ahead.
Reyes received a mix of cheers — and louder boos — from the crowd of 20,192, the smallest this season at Citi Field.
“Some of them understood the situation and others I guess will never forgive him,” Mets third baseman David Wright said.
Marlins teammate Hanley Ramirez had told Reyes he would cry on Tuesday. But Reyes said he never shed a tear, and he wasn’t surprised by the boos.
“I play for another team now,” he said. “No hard feelings.”
Johan Santana and Josh Johnson zipped through the first six innings in a matchup of healthy-looking aces. Santana, coming off the shortest start of his career, struck out 11 for the Mets while Johnson whiffed nine.
Both working on six days’ rest, each pitcher was charged with one run and three hits in 6 2-3 innings. Santana and Johnson, both injured last season, threw 67 strikes apiece.
“He pitched incredible,” Johnson said. “Personally, it was good to get back on track and feel good with my delivery.”
Jon Rauch (3-0) worked a perfect inning and Frank Francisco tossed a hitless ninth for his fourth save.
The victory gave the Mets a boost on a day when they put starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey (elbow) and left fielder Jason Bay (broken rib) on the 15-day disabled list. New York, swept in a doubleheader by San Francisco on Monday, won for the second time in seven games.
Miami has dropped three straight and is 2-7 on the road.
“It’s good to get it out of the way,” Reyes said of his first game back at Citi Field. “Tomorrow, I’ll have a better idea. But it’s good to see my buddies over there. I played for them for a long time.”
A homegrown star with the Mets, Reyes left to sign a $106 million, six-year deal with the division-rival Marlins. Before the game he said it was an exciting and emotional day, but he wasn’t sure what to expect.
“It was kind of weird for me a little bit,” Reyes said. “But after the third inning, everything goes away and you just focus on playing baseball.”
After striking out his first three times up, Nieuwenhuis singled to start the eighth against Mujica (0-2) and went to third on Daniel Murphy’s one-out single. Wright was called out on strikes but Duda hit a line drive that hit Mujica on his middle finger and rolled behind the mound for an infield single.
Mujica stayed down on the ground in pain for a bit and then left the game.
“The X-ray was negative. It’s going to be a couple of days, hopefully no more than that,” Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said.
Santana gave up a one-out single to Emilio Bonifacio in the first but did not yield another hit until Giancarlo Stanton’s two-out single in the seventh. Mets nemesis Gaby Sanchez followed with an RBI double off the left-field wall and Stanton scored from first on New York’s sloppy relay.
“When you have a matchup with Josh Johnson it always comes down to that — to one pitch or one play, and that’s what it was,” Santana said. “You’ve got to be on top of your game.”
That was it for Santana after 105 pitches, but the Mets tied it in the bottom half on four consecutive two-out walks — by four different pitchers.
Santana struck out two in each of the first five innings. He had his most strikeouts since he also fanned 11 against the Braves on Aug. 2, 2010. He lasted only 1 1-3 innings last Tuesday in a 9-3 loss at Atlanta.
“It was the old Santana tonight,” Bonifacio said. “He was really tough.”
NOTES: A few minutes before the game, the Mets played a video package of highlights from Reyes’ tenure with the team on the big scoreboard in center field. The screen then read “Thanks for the Memories!” Reyes watched from the dugout, then popped out with a smile and waved quickly to a sparse crowd that was still filing in. Reyes also wore a wireless microphone for MLB Productions. … Marlins 2B Omar Infante was back in the lineup after missing four games with a groin problem.