By Rich Mancuso
BRONX, NEW YORK, August 27- A four-game sweep at the hands of the Colorado Rockies this week at Citi Field made it a miserable week for the New York Mets and their manager Terry Collins. In come the Houston Astros Friday night with the worst record in baseball and 47 games under .500.
So, one has to figure that New York would gladly welcome the Astros to their home park. However, the way things have been going for the Mets, the Astros welcomed their trip to Citi Field. As so it went Friday night as interim manager Tony DeFrancesco of the Astros got his first win and the Mets dropped a season tying sixth straight, 3-1.
DeFrancesco, who took over managerial responsibilities last week when Brad Mills was dismissed, was born in the Bronx and spent most of his youth up in nearby Rockland County and played college ball as a catcher at Seton Hall University.
After spending a few congratulatory moments with his team, DeFrancesco was greeted by 25 members of his family, including his mother, father and relatives in the visitor’s manager’s office.
“A great win for these guys and I am happy for the team the way they’ve battled back,” said DeFrancesco before his mother could come in and say, “Where’s my son?”
The night belonged to the Astros and it made for a perfect homecoming for DeFrancesco. He told his team to keep the momentum going Saturday afternoon. Starter Jordan Lyles, (3-10), the youngest pitcher in baseball won his first game in two months.
“We’re going to change momentum,” he said. “We’re going to change the attitude. I know it’s only one win, but the guys are at a good place. Even though it’s been a rough season, we’ve got a long way to go here and hopefully we can turn this thing around.”
New York took two of three games in the series, including the finale Sunday afternoon. DeFancesco came out to argue a bang-bang play at home plate in the ninth Inning. Ben Francisco got a single through the hole at shortstop, and a throw from left by the Mets’ Lucas Duda nailed Marvin Gonzalez at the plate. Had the run scored, the Astros would have taken a 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the ninth.
“It was a hell of a play by their catcher,” said DeFrancesco who would know something about a play that was handled well by the veteran Kelly Shoppach.
The Astros got five hits off Mets starter and winner Jeremy Hefner. At one point, Hefner was cruising and retired 12-straight Houston batters. “He was good at changing speeds,” commented DeFrancesco.
In his office the congratulatory bottle of champagne from Friday night was still sitting on a shelf behind the desk. He was planning to put it in the luggage for the trip back to Houston.
Mom and dad met him again before boarding the team bus to nearby LaGuardia Airport. The 17-year minor league manager has a week in the big leagues and enjoying every minute of it.
“One thing I am pleased with is the way they are playing,” he said about his team.
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