PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) In a bizarre play, Mets center fielder Yoenis Cespedes backed away from a ball that was in plain sight underneath the padding on the wall, giving the Houston Astros an inside-the-park homer Thursday in an 8-5 win over New York.
A matchup of AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel and Mets ace Matt Harvey was overshadowed by the strange home run.
A.J. Reed hit a deep drive in the second inning that landed in the dirt at the base of the wall. The ball was clearly visible, but Cespedes put up his hands to signal it was unplayable and should be a ground rule double.
Reed easily made it to second base, then jogged the rest of the way home while Cespedes stood by.
Second base umpire CB Bucknor went out to center field and rolled the ball away from the wall, showing Cespedes he should have made a play.
''The ball fell under the fence. It got wedged in there. For me, I couldn't grab it,'' Cespedes said through a translator. ''I thought, `Follow the rules.' It should have been a double.''
''(Bucknor) said, `Yes, you should be able to grab that.' I said, `Of course I can grab that if I stick my hand in there and pull it out.' I guess I could grab it,'' he said.
Mets manager Terry Collins called the play a ''misunderstanding.'' He said Cespedes' response is standard during the regular season.
''Most ballparks when that happens in the big leagues, you throw your hands up because it's stuck,'' Collins said. ''If it doesn't come out, if it sticks under any pads - any pads at all - if the ball gets stuck, it gets stuck. That's what his knowledge of playing outfield in the big leagues (was), so he threw up his hands.''
Keuchel threw five scoreless innings, giving up three hits and striking out five.
Harvey was tagged for six runs on seven hits and four walks in three innings.
Astros: Keuchel allowed a leadoff triple to Curtis Granderson and walked David Wright to start the game, but settled in after that.
''It's encouraging that I kind of found a rhythm after those three pretty lackluster pitches to Granderson,'' Keuchel said. ''Even though I walked David, I felt my pitches were there and then Cespedes I was able to make some quality pitches and go from there.''
Mets: Collins said he couldn't remember a time that Harvey struggled so much with his fastball command. Harvey said it was a mechanical issue.
''(It) was a little awkward today,'' Harvey said. ''Every time I tried to execute a pitch it was just over the middle and felt like every throw was a little bit different than the other ones.''
Mets: Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (knee) planned to run and also hit in a minor league game Friday. . Left fielder Michael Conforto is expected to be out two to three days with back spasms. Collins said he was concerned because back spasms ''can be tough to get rid of.''
Astros: RHP Dan Straily will start against RHP Julio Teheran and an Atlanta Braves split squad on Friday. Collin McHugh initially was scheduled to start against the Braves, but manager A.J. Hinch said he wanted to see Straily, who is out of options, pitch again and McHugh already was up to 80 pitches in his last start.
Mets: RHP Noah Syndergaard will start against the St. Louis Cardinals and RHP Michael Wacha.