The National League East was supposed to be the Nationals’ division to win as they pleased, with the Marlins and Mets duking it out for a wild-card spot. That was in April, before anyone knew anything.
Now they know.
Not only are the Mets in the thick of the division race, neck and neck with the Nationals, the Marlins are flopping around near the bottom, trying to remain ahead of the lowly Phillies.
So much for preseason predictions.
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And just to emphasize their point, the Mets gave the Marlins a 12-1 lashing Monday night to begin their series, taking over sole possession of first in the process.
Rookie Michael Conforto cracked his first major-league homer, Mets newcomer Yoenis Cespedes drove in four runs with three doubles, and 42-year-old pitcher Bartolo Colon shackled the Marlins lineup for the lopsided win.
“It was ugly, maybe the ugliest game we’ve played all year,” manager Dan Jennings said. “This is one you just forget quickly, shower it off, let it go.
“It’s just a game to forget.”
It was another frustrating start against the Mets for Tom Koehler, a New York native who can’t seem to figure them out. Koehler, who was lifted in the fifth after giving up six earned runs, has an unsightly 14.73 ERA in his three starts this year against the Mets.
Against everyone else, Koehler’s ERA is a sparkling 2.26.
“It’s certainly not indicative of what he’s done this year,” Jennings said of Koehler’s outing Monday. “Just a bad game. Unfortunately, you’re going to have some of those.”
The Mets wasted little time in tearing into Koehler.
Conforto, a former first-round pick who was called up July 24, clubbed his first big-league home run, a three-run shot to right-center, in the second inning.
The Mets chased Koehler in the fifth, coming up with three runs, two delivered by Cespedes when he doubled off the wall in right-center.
“You fall behind, no matter who you’re facing, and you’re forced to throw fastballs, probably in better parts of the plate you’d normally want to,” Koehler explained of what went wrong.
“They didn’t miss it. They didn’t foul them off. They hit them hard.”
After Koehler came out, Cespedes wasn’t done.
Cespedes, who was acquired Friday in a trade deadline deal with Detroit, drove in three more runs with another double off reliever Andre Rienzo, that one caroming off the wall in left-center.
In most other ballparks, Cespedes would have had two home runs.
All told, the Mets had six doubles to go with Conforte’s homer, as matters did not improve for Marlins pitchers when neither Rienzo nor rookie Chris Reed could stop the bleeding after Koehler came out.
As for Colon, the Marlins were stymied by the oldest starter in the majors.
The Marlins mustered just seven hits off Colon, who is 10-10 this season, 2-1 against the Marlins. Three of the hits belonged to Christian Yelich, who drove in the Marlins’ only run with a two-out double in the eighth.
While the Mets are rolling, the Marlins are reeling, already playing for next season.
The Marlins now have six rookies on the roster, five of which have arrived within the past week to fill spots vacated by players that were traded by the Marlins before the July 31 deadline.