MIAMI — The Mets admitted that it was difficult to play Monday’s series opener against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Though the Mets found themselves in the thick of the National League Wild Card race, their postseason aspirations were secondary to honoring Jose Fernandez, the Marlins ace who was killed in a boating accident on early Sunday morning.
The Marlins’ emotional tributes to their fallen teammate left a visceral impact on the Mets, who eventually lost, 7-3.
But on Tuesday, the Mets returned to Marlins Park with their focus back on the Wild Card race, and they continued their mission by defeating the Marlins, 12-1, to even the three-game series against their division rivals.
With the win, the Mets retained their place atop the National League Wild Card standings with four games left to play.
Noah Syndergaard allowed one run on five hits over six innings while striking out eight and walking none in his first start back from a bout of strep throat. The 24-year-old fireballer had been scheduled to start Saturday against the Phillies but was pushed back after he came down with the illness.
Jay Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes each delivered a two-run homer, while Lucas Duda and Curtis Granderson each drove in three runs to lead the offensive onslaught.
The Marlins took a 1-0 lead over Syndergaard after Dee Gordon reached on a bunt single, stole second and scored on Marcell Ozuna’s RBI single to right field in the bottom of the first inning.
But the Mets quickly erased the deficit on Bruce’s two-run shot off Tom Koehler in the top of the second. After Granderson drew a leadoff walk to open the inning, Bruce crushed a first-pitch fastball to the upper deck in right field to put the Mets ahead, 2-1. It was Bruce’s 31st home run of the season.
Though Bruce struggled mightily after being acquired from the Cincinnati Reds at the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline, the Mets slugger is showing signs of emerging from his deep slump and is now 6-for-14 (.429) with two home runs over his last four games.
The Mets’ lead grew to 4-1 in the following inning after Cespedes hammered a towering two-run blast off Koehler that hit the colorful sculpture in left-center field at Marlins Park. It was Cespedes’ 31st home run of the season, matching Bruce’s total.
Syndergaard looked sharp in his return to the rotation, striking out the side in the third and retiring 13 of the final 15 batters he faced. He departed the game after the sixth inning with his pitch count at 93.
The Mets took a commanding 9-1 lead by erupting for five runs in the eighth, capped by Lucas Duda’s bases-clearing double off left-hander Mike Dunn. With runners on second and third and one out, the Marlins intentionally walked Cespedes to load the bases. Dunn was then summoned to face the left-handed hitting Granderson, who delivered a two-run single to center. Bruce followed with a single to re-load the bases before Dunn struck out Rivera swinging to record the second out of the inning. Duda then knocked in three more runs with a two-out double to right field, giving the Mets an eight-run lead.
The Mets tacked on three more runs in the top of the ninth on Michael Conforto’s run-scoring groundout, Granderson’s RBI double and Juan Lagares’ sacrifice fly.
Fernando Salas, Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia combined to pitch three scoreless innings out of the bullpen to close out the win for the Mets.
STAT TO KNOW
• T.J. Rivera earned his first career triple in the top of the third and finished 2-for-5. The 27-year-old rookie infielder is batting .404 (21-for-52) with three home runs and 11 RBI over his last 15 games.
• Jose Reyes appeared to tweak his ankle in the top of the eighth after doubling into the right-center gap off Austin Brice. Reyes rounded second and appeared to be going for a triple, but Ty Kelly was held up at third, forcing Reyes to slam on the brakes and seemingly twist his ankle. Trainer Ray Ramirez came out to check on Reyes, but he ultimately remained in the game.
• Steven Matz has been shut down for the season and is slated to undergo surgery to remove bone spurs in his left elbow next week at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan.
• Wilmer Flores remains unable to swing a bat due to a bone bruise in his right wrist and has been shut down for a couple of days, making it unlikely that he’ll play again in the regular season.
Seth Lugo (4-2, 2.61) battles Jose Urena (4-8, 5.95) in Wednesday’s series finale at Marlins Park. First pitch is at 7:10 p.m. EDT.