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NYM@ARI: Nieuwenhuis gets three hits, three RBIs

PHOENIX -- Perhaps the Mets were simply unleashing their frustrations. At the tail end of a grueling three-city road trip, the Mets learned Tuesday that they would have to make do without Juan Lagares, whose strained right hamstring landed him on the disabled list, and Curtis Granderson, whose body was still sore from crashing into Chase Field's right-field fence the day before.

They responded not with self-pity, but their most furious offensive attack of the season. By the fourth, the Mets had already scored a season-high nine runs and knocked D-backs starter Bronson Arroyo out of what would end up being a 9-0 rout on Jackie Robinson Day.

"That was good to see," outfielder Eric Young said. "That was good to see from all standpoints."

Routinely attacking Arroyo early in counts, the first three Mets to face the veteran all hit safely. Young came around to score first, on Lucas Duda's RBI fielder's choice. Then Daniel Murphy came home on Andrew Brown's sacrifice fly, and Duda scored to make it 3-0 on Kirk Nieuwenhuis' two-out hit.

"They were aggressive really early on," Arroyo said. "I expected a bit more patience from that ballclub, but I've pitched well against them in the past and maybe they wanted to just change things up."

In his first game subbing for the injured Lagares in center field, Nieuwenhuis added a two-run homer to key a six-run fourth, made a diving catch to rob Mark Trumbo of a hit in the fifth, rapped out yet another single in the seventh and made a fine running grab of A.J. Pollock's fly ball to end the bottom half of that inning.

"It was good to be back, for sure," Nieuwenhuis said, crediting his improved offensive approach in the Minors in part to getting married last winter. "I put a lot of work into my swing this offseason, just trying to be more relaxed. I think I play better that way, for sure. Playing uptight, I don't do well that way at all."

His contributions may have been the loudest of any Met, but Nieuwenhuis was hardly alone. Young, for example, collected three hits, scored twice and drove in two runs. Murphy also recorded two hits and scored twice. David Wright's multihit game extended his personal hitting streak to seven. And all of that damage occurred before the end of the fourth.

The final result was a foregone conclusion, considering Jenrry Mejia was pitching as well as the Mets were hitting. Retiring the first nine batters he faced, Mejia departed only because a blister popped on his right middle finger -- but not before completing five scoreless innings with three strikeouts and two walks. He needed only 77 pitches to do so.

"Until the blister started to act up, he threw the ball very well," manager Terry Collins said. "I feel terrible for the poor guy, because certainly he's shown everybody every time he's ever been out there where he's healthy, that he's got the stuff to be a winner at this level. We've just got to somehow keep him staying out there."

With the victory, the Mets climbed to .500 for the first time this season, while assuring themselves a winning nine-game road trip through Atlanta, Anaheim and Phoenix -- a daunting schedule that concerned Collins prior to departing. With one game to go at Chase Field, the Mets could finish as strong as 6-3 on the trip and return home with a winning record.

Perhaps more importantly, the victory proved that the Mets can win in a depleted state. Before landing on the DL, Lagares was their best overall player, adding serious offensive value to what had always been an elite defensive profile. Due in part to the absences of him, Granderson and Chris Young, Tuesday's lineup included four players -- Eric Young, Brown, Nieuwenhuis and Omar Quintanilla -- whom the Mets did not expect to be everyday starters at the beginning of the season.

For Nieuwenhuis in particular, the game provided a critical platform to show that Lagares is not the organization's only center fielder with a bright future.

"Three years ago at this time, Kirk Nieuwenhuis was the talk of this organization -- a guy that people thought was going to be an offensive center fielder who could run, play the game the right way, add some power," Collins said. "Some injuries have kept him down a little bit. Hopefully this is his chance to come up and produce."

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