Don Mattingly had waited two long months for this exact moment.
With the score tied in the seventh and James Loney coming to the plate for the Mets, Mattingly strolled to the mound, took the ball from starter Tom Koehler and signaled for Mike Dunn in the bullpen.
Lefty vs. lefty.
It was a situational matchup that was largely unavailable to Mattingly during April and May, when Dunn was on the disabled list and no other southpaw emerged for the Marlins in their bullpen.
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“It was his spot,” Mattingly said.
But it didn’t pay off for him on Friday night.
Loney launched Dunn’s first pitch into the right-field seats, propelling the Mets to a 6-2 victory at Marlins Park. It was the first home run for Loney since joining the Mets in a trade on May 28 and the 100th of his career.
“It was a fastball right down the middle,” Dunn said. “No excuses.”
Koehler drew a tough assignment Friday in Mets flamethrower Noah Syndergaard, who took a 1.91 ERA — fourth-lowest in the majors — with him to the mound.
But Koehler’s only two wins of the season have come against studs Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer, and he held his own against Syndergaard throughout his six innings.
“I felt this was the best I’ve thrown in a little bit,” Koehler said.
After Marcell Ozuna had given the Marlins a quick 1-0 lead with his 11th home run, a solo shot in the second, the Mets struck for a pair of runs in the fourth, tying it on an Asdrubel Cabrera home run and taking the lead on Wilmer Flores’ RBI single.
The Marlins tied it again in the sixth on Ozuna’s sacrifice fly.
But then came the seventh. Koehler walked Flores to start the inning, prompting Mattingly to turn to Dunn. It took almost no time for his decision to backfire.
“If he gives up a hit, maybe it’s a different story,” Mattingly said of Koehler. “But he walks a guy on four pitches, we’re getting a lefty there. Felt it was like the right spot.”
Dunn’s first pitch — a 91-mph fastball — found the outfield seats. Dunn’s fastball velocity, which has hovered in the mid- to upper-90s in the past, was at least three or four ticks slower Friday in what was his second relief outing since coming off the disabled list.
“It’s my fifth game in two months, but ultimately I just expect to pitch better,” said Dunn, who appeared in three minor-league rehab games before re-joining the Marlins.
In his first outing back, he gave up a bases-loaded hit.
Koehler defended Dunn, his longtime teammate.
“Everyone now is getting closer to midseason form,” Koehler said. “And he’s come back after throwing [three] rehab games. There’s going to be some rust. But we need him. He’s huge for us. He’s been a workhorse in that bullpen.
“I’m not concerned about him. It’s unfortunate the start that he’s had. But I’m sure when we’re sitting here in August he’s going to get some big outs and get some big punch outs in big situations.”
The Mets tacked on two runs in the ninth on Rene Rivera’s home run off Cody Hall, who was making his Marlins debut.