For a fleeting moment, it looked as though manager Don Mattingly had found the solution to the Marlins’ scoring famine with a few tweaks to the lineup, sticking Christian Yelich in the cleanup spot.
Yelich smacked a two-run home run in the first inning.
Alas, it proved to be a tease.
The Marlins didn’t score again until the final inning of a 7-4 setback to the Mets that cost them positioning in the Wild-Card playoff race. The Marlins, who have lost four straight, fell behind the Mets in the Wild Card
“We can’t try to fix it overnight,” said losing pitcher Tom Koehler. “It’s not going to work that way. We’ve just got to play good ball.”
It’s not been good for the struggling Marlins, who have gone 10-17 this month and, with Tuesday’s defeat, dropped to two games over .500 (67-65) since they were 34-32 on June 15.
Not even their pitching, which has performed surprisingly well in an otherwise dreary month, was nothing to brag about at Citi Field, where the Mets worked over Koehler.
The 2-0 lead that Yelich provided with his opposite-field homer off Seth Lugo vanished minutes later when Asdrubal Cabrera answered in the bottom half of the first with a two-run shot of his own and the Mets grabbed
the lead for good on Wilmer Flores’ RBI single.
“They came out very aggressive today,” Koehler said. “A lot of first-pitch base hits. Never really allowed me to get into a rhythm.”
Koehler was knocked out in the fifth inning after giving up five runs on 10 hits and three walks. His cause wasn’t helped any by catcher J.T. Realmuto, whose slow reaction on a wild pitch in the fifth potentially cost the Marlins later on.
With the Marlins down a run, Koehler retired the first two batters in the fifth before bouncing a ball in the dirt on a swinging strike three pitch to Alejandro de Aza. Realmuto blocked the ball, which bounced a few feet away,
close enough to pick up and throw to first for the third out.
But Realmuto waited so long to pick up the ball that de Aza beat his throw.
“We’ve seen that a couple of times from J.T., where he takes his time,” Mattingly said. “It’s something we’ll talk about.”
Though he didn’t allow any runs that inning, Koehler was forced to face three more hitters before getting out of it. And instead of facing the bottom of the order in the next inning, the first man up was pinch-hitter Curtis Granderson, who belted a Koehler pitch into the seats to make it 4-2.
The Mets added another run on de Aza’s two-out hit off Dustin McGowan, who took over for Koehler.
“That, more than anything, adds pitches, it adds hitters,” Mattingly said of Realmuto’s mental miscue. “Instead of starting 7-8-9 the next inning, we’re at 1-2-3 — or 9-1-2 — and you end up getting Granderson there to start
Granderson wasn’t done after homering off Koehler. He hit a two-run shot off McGowan in the seventh as the Mets widened their lead to 7-2.
After Yelich’s homer —the first for the Marlins in eight games — the bats were relatively silent until Realmuto homered in the ninth and the Marlins added one more run on Dee Gordon’s two-out single.
“Obviously encouraging for him to square that up out there over the plate,” Mattingly said of Yelich’s homer. “We get two runs on the board. It felt good. But I don’t think it had anything to do where he hit in the order.”