Noah Syndergaard and the Mets squared off against righty Tom Koehler and the Marlins in the first game of a three-game set in Miami. The Marlins, playing well despite the loss of Dee Gordon as their starting second baseman, sat only a game back of the Mets in the NL East standings coming into the series. The Mets, meanwhile, looked to right the ship after dropping four of their last six games.
Syndergaard started the night strong, setting the Marlins down in order in the first on only nine pitches. The second inning was much harder, however. Marcell Ozuna led off with a homer, giving the Marlins a 1-0 lead. Two batters later, a Justin Bour double and a fielding error on Syndergaard put runners on the corners with two outs. Unphased, Syndergaard bore down to strike out Jeff Mathis and the pitcher Koehler and keep the deficit at one.
On the other end, the Mets’s offense was quiet out of the gate. Yoenis Cespedes had the only hit the first time through the order against Koehler, a two-out double in the first. In the fourth, Asdrubal Cabrera led off with a booming home run to right field to tie the game. Cespedes followed with a single and Neil Walker took a slider off the foot to put runners on first and second and no out. A slumping Michael Conforto grounded into a double play that seemed to end the threat, but Wilmer Flores came through with a broken bat RBI single to score Cespedes from third, Flores’s first hit with a RISP this season.
With the lead, Syndergaard was on cruise control. He struck out five consecutive Marlins batters at one part during a string of 13 consecutive Marlins retired. In the sixth, the BABIP fairy got back at Thor, as he allowed a weak single to Martin Prado and a ground ball deflected by Cabrera at short turned into a double to put runners at second and third with one out. Marcell Ozuna followed with a sac fly to tie the game at two.
Don Mattingly left Koehler out for the top of the seventh, an odd decision given Koehler’s spotty control and high pitch count. Indeed, the decision was short lived, as Koehler was pulled in favor of lefty Mike Dunn after issuing a four pitch walk to Wilmer Flores. Dunn, brought in to face the lefty-hitting James Loney, promptly served up a middle-middle fastball that the first baseman launched off the facing of the second deck in right field, a two-run shot that gave the lead right back to the Mets.
Syndergaard also got to stay in for the seventh inning, though he fared much better than Koehler. Despite allowing a single, a walk and three steals (two to the ageless Ichiro), Syndergaard was able to escape the inning by striking out Derek Dietrich on a 3-2 slider. Thor allowed six hits, two runs, one walk and struck out nine in his seven innings of work, another extremely impressive outing despite his early shakiness.
The eighth inning was quiet on both sides, as Cody Hall set the Mets down in order and Addison Reed worked around a single from Christian Yelich to keep the Marlins off the board. In the ninth, Flores lead off with a double and moved to third on a fly out before Rene Rivera hit a long home run to left field to extend the Met lead to 6-2. No longer a save situation, Jeurys Familia got the night off in favor of Jim Henderson, who set down the Marlins in order to end the game.
The replacement Mets were the heroes of this game; Flores, Loney and Rivera, filling in for David Wright, Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud respectively, went a combined 4-for-11 with a walk, a home run and five RBI. All three Met homers came from former Rays: Cabrera, Loney and Rivera. The win, along with the Nationals’ loss to the Reds, puts the Mets two games back of Washington for first place in the NL East. Bartolo Colon opposes Justin Nicolino in game two of the series on Saturday.
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