Don Mattingly could have let Tom Koehler go another inning but didn’t.
He wanted to go for the knockout punch.
And so even though Koehler had thrown only 78 pitches and the Marlins had a seemingly healthy 7-3 lead, he brought in Ichiro Suzuki to pinch-hit for Koehler with two on and two outs in the sixth.
“We’re trying to score,” Mattingly said of the decision. “We know [the Mets] can score.”
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He was right about that.
Ichiro didn’t bring home any runs, popping out to end the sixth.
But the Mets came up big in the seventh, scoring five times off Brad Ziegler to pull out an 8-7 victory over the slumping Marlins.
The Marlins (12-16), who have lost eight of their past 10, watched a 7-1 lead evaporate into one of the season’s most disheartening losses, a gut-punch setback that was ripe for second-guessing, starting with Mattingly’s decision to lift Koehler when he did.
They saw a big six-run fourth inning, one fueled by two Miguel Rojas hits, go for naught.
Not that Koehler was dominating. He gave up two more home runs to bring his season total to nine.
“It seems like every mistake I’m making right now is really getting punished,” Koehler said. “I’ve got to really dive in this week and find out what the root cause is. I’ve got to shut that down.”
Still, Koehler commanded a four-run lead, had worked a relatively quiet fifth, and his pitch count was low. On top of all that, the Marlins’ bullpen could be put to heavy duty on Saturday and Sunday when they send out two fill-in starters in Odrisamer Despaigne and Jose Urena.
But in addition to going with a pinch-hitter in the sixth in a bid to tack on more runs, Mattingly said the bottom of the sixth set up for left-hander Jarlin Garcia, with two lefties due up in Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson. True to the blueprint, Garcia did his job.
It was in the seventh when it all fell apart for the Marlins.
The Mets (13-15) opened the inning with six consecutive hits off Ziegler.
“My last outing I had some walks and a little command issue,” said Ziegler, who walked three in his previous outing. “[Friday] I told myself I was going to go out and challenge them, throw strikes, make them beat me instead of me beating myself. They did it.”
Did they ever.
Ziegler threw just 19 pitches. But that’s all it took for the Mets to take a 7-3 deficit and turn it into a 7-7 tie. By the time Kyle Barraclough took over for Ziegler, the Mets had runners at second and third and no outs.
It was a tough spot, and Barraclough nearly worked out of it. He struck out the first two batters he faced but then walked Granderson on four pitches before forcing in the go-ahead run on a four-pitch walk to Wilmer Flores.
Afterward, Koehler defended Mattingly’s decision to take him out.
“We had a chance for Ichiro to open the game up even more,” Koehler said, echoing Mattingly’s explanation.