Pablo Lopez waited for this moment, this chance for redemption. The New York Mets roughed him up the last time he took the mound, tagging Lopez for 10 runs — including an eight-run, 13-batter first inning — over a three-inning stint on May 10 at Citi Field.
He knew that he would get a second chance soon enough.
“Preparation starts tomorrow,” Lopez said after that start in New York, an 11-2 loss that served as the midway point of a season-long seven-game losing streak for the Miami Marlins.
So when Lopez walked onto the field at Marlins Park on Saturday against the same team that dominated him just eight days earlier, he knew something needed to be fixed.
And save for a first-pitch double by Jeff McNeil that barely stayed fair down the left-field line to open the game, everything clicked for the young pitcher.
Lopez got his redemption — and had the best start of his young MLB career in the process.
The 23-year-old right-handed pitcher tied career highs with seven shutout innings and seven strikeouts while giving up just the one hit and two walks to lead the Marlins to a 2-0 win over the Mets and clinch the three-game series.
“That was a great response,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Lopez. “He didn’t even have to talk. He just went out and pitched.”
It’s just the second time the Marlins (12-31) have won a series this year and the third time they won back-to-back games.
The Marlins can get the sweep — their first since taking all three in a set against, coincidentally, the Mets from Sept. 18-20, 2017 — with a win on Sunday. First pitch is set for 1:10 p.m.
Lopez was a big factor in the success.
Lopez retired 14 consecutive batters — five by strikeout — after the leadoff double and did not allow another baserunner to get into scoring position. He left the game after throwing 92 pitches, 61 of which were strikes.
He had command of all four of his pitches, effectively mixing his four-seam fastball, two-seamer, cutter and change-up to keep Mets batters off balance.
“I was anxious,” Lopez said. “I wanted to go out there and just leave everything on the field. ... It was just a matter of being in control.”
Mattingly added: “He took a beating out there in New York. Nothing went right. There were two ways to go. He was either going to come out and pitch like he was afraid of those guys or he was going to be aggressive. ... He buckled down.”
And just as important, Lopez received support from his offense. Jon Berti hit a leadoff home run 371 feet to right field to give the Marlins an early lead. Berti, one of the faster players on the Marlins’ roster who has batted in the leadoff spot three of the last four games, scored again in the third when Brian Anderson drove him home from second base with a two-out single to right.
Lopez even helped his own cause, hitting a two-out single through the left side in the fourth that knocked Mets starter Steven Matz out of the game and forcing the Mets (20-24) to rely on their bullpen the rest of the way.
Tayron Guerrero threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen before Adam Conley came in to record the final two outs and record the save.
Marlins starting catcher Jorge Alfaro left Saturday’s game in the fourth inning with a mild left calf strain after he collided with Mets second baseman Robinson Cano on a stolen base attempt in the fourth inning.
Chad Wallach entered the game for Alfaro and caught the final five innings. Alfaro is day-to-day.
Alfaro, who leads the Marlins with six home runs, had a pair of injury scares back in spring training regarding his right knee.
Alfaro, acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies in addition to pitching prospects Sixto Sanchez and Will Stewart on Feb. 7 in the J.T. Realmuto trade, injured the knee in the Grapefruit League opener on Feb. 23 after running into the dugout railing while trying to track down a foul ball. Alfaro tweaked the knee again on March 5 when he was picked off at second base against the Mets.