Collins' decisions give Mets first win

MIAMI -- Terry Collins kept the lineup card from his first managerial win since Aug. 23, 1999.

He earned it considering all the strategic decisions required.

"That's the fun part of managing in the National League, to be honest," Collins said after the Mets survived for a 6-4 win against the Florida Marlins on Saturday night at Sun Life Stadium. "You've got maneuvers to make. You have double-switches you've got to do. We made some moves in the ninth inning to put what we thought was a little bit better defensive club out there. And that's what you've got to do in the National League."

The decisions:

Lifting Niese: After allowing a two-run single to Logan Morrison in the first inning, left-hander Jon Niese tossed six scoreless innings, allowing only one hit during those run-free frames. But with Niese making his first regular-season start of 2011, Collins was determined to cap Niese at 90 pitches. The manager pulled Niese three pitches shy of that limit and was rewarded when right-hander Bobby Parnell tossed a scoreless eighth.

Lifting K-Rod: Collins inserted closer Francisco Rodriguez for the ninth inning, trying to protect a one-run lead. K-Rod failed in that attempt, surrendering a game-tying RBI single to Greg Dobbs.

Collins was prepared to send Rodriguez back out for the 10th -- unless his spot in the batting order came up. It did, after Willie Harris' two-run double had given the Mets a 6-3 lead. Scott Hairston pinch-hit for K-Rod and struck out.

K-Rod, by the way, has never batted in a major league game. He grabbed a helmet from passerby Chin-lung Hu, after Hu struck out for the 10th inning's second out.

"I wanted to give Scotty a chance to see if we could get the extra run," Collins said. "I don't think any lead is too safe. I wanted to keep K-Rod for another day. & He understood, but he wanted to go back out there."

Lifting Ike: Of the flurry of ninth inning changes that included Harris replacing Lucas Duda in left field and Hu replacing Brad Emaus at second base, one move weakened the Mets defensively. After Ike Davis walked to lead off the top of the ninth with the score tied at 2, Collins inserted Hu as a pinch-runner.

Hu was going to be entering the game as a defensive replacement for Emaus anyway, and Daniel Murphy likely was going to pinch-hit anyway. But that meant Murphy, not Davis, playing first base for the remainder of the game. Sure enough, Emilio Bonifacio smoked a critical hit past a diving Murphy in the bottom of the ninth to move the eventual tying run to third base.

"I knew Emaus was going to get up," Collins said. "I thought we could put Chin-lung at second base anyway. I didn't want somebody to hit a ball in the gap and not be able to score with two outs or something. That's why I made the move."

Not lifting Boyer: Blaine Boyer earned the second save of his major league career, with Collins leaving him in the tenth despite surrendering a run, and with lefty specialist Tim Byrdak ready to enter against either lefty-hitting Logan Morrison or Scott Cousins.

Collins did not want to take any chances with having Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez send slugger Mike Stanton up to pinch-hit. Stanton was out with a hamstring injury, and Collins wasn't entirely sure how severe.

"I know Stanton is somewhere," Collins said. "I know he's got a bad leg. But he's sitting in that dugout someplace. And if there's somebody who could tie up the game with one swing, it's probably him. And I knew Blaine would keep the ball on the ground. So that's why I stayed with him."

As for the game's bevy of maneuvers, Collins concluded: "It's baseball. That's what baseball is about. It's fun. You win big, it's nice to have once in a while. It's the games like [Saturday] that test your character, I think. Obviously they responded great."