The Mets rallied from a 3-0 deficit today against the Marlins’ bullpen to win the getaway game and the series 4-3. The Mets have taken their first two series of the year for the first time since 2006. Marlon Byrd capped the game with a 2-run walkoff hit, aided by aggressive base running from Ruben Tejada and Kirk Nieuwenhuis today.
Box score and video highlights here.
The Mets’ string of quality starts came to an end today, as Aaron Laffey struggled over 4.1 innings of work today. After stranding two Marlins each in the first and second, Laffey was tagged by Justin Ruggiano for an RBI double to open scoring in the third inning. The fourth inning went a bit worse, in which Chris Valaika and Donovan Solano each knocked RBI doubles. Despite striking out 5, Laffey struggled to put away hitters throughout his outing, racking up 90 pitches and 11 baserunners (10 hits, 1 walk) and consistently pitching to deep counts.
Greg Burke, who has struggled early this season, was able to put out the flames of a potentially huge fifth inning. Adeinny Hechavarria singled to load the bases, but Burke then struck out Chris Valaika and Jose Fernandez to strand them. Burke then pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning, highlighted by a strikeout of Giancarlo Stanton.
Josh Edgin struggled again in the 7th inning, allowing a walk and a double to left. Scott Atchison came in and put out the flames, coaxing a soft ground ball and a strikeout with runners on second and third. LaTroy Hawkins and Scott Rice each pitched scoreless innings to keep the Mets in the game.
Laffey’s poor outing raises concerns about the Mets’ pitching depth, especially as Shaun Marcum‘s status looks less clear by the day. Collin McHugh, who pitched well in his AAA debut, would be next on the depth chart. Thanks to Thursday’s off-day, The Mets can make it as far as April 16th in Colorado without a fifth starter, so no immediate decisions need to be made.
Daniel Murphy was the first hitter to reach base against Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez, lining a single up the middle with one out in the fourth inning. Ike Davis later walked, but both were stranded. An inning later, the Mets finally got on the board following an excellent at bat by Ruben Tejada that led to a single, and back-up catcher Anthony Recker doubled him in on a 1-2 breaking ball. Jose Fernandez ended his day after only 80 pitches over five excellent innings. The sixth opened with a bang for the Marlins bullpen, as Daniel Murphy greeted A.J. Ramos with a long home run to center field.
The Marlins bullpen offered chances for the Mets in the seventh and eighth innings, but the Mets stranded early base runners in both innings. Ruben Tejada reached base in the ninth after Steve Cishek grazed his jersey, and smartly advanced to third on a hit by Kirk Nieuwenhuis (by doing so, it allowed Kirk to advance to second with only one out). Marlon Byrd, who entered for Mike Baxter in the 7th inning, laced a hit past third-baseman Chris Valaika that plated both runners. The Mets improved to 4-2 and look to fatten up on a 10-game road trip against Philadelphia, Minnesota, and Colorado.
- In a turnaround from Friday’s implosion, the bullpen came through in key spots today. Greg Burke, in particular, had an excellent outing. After a base hit that loaded the bases in the fifth, Burke retired five in a row, three by way of strikeout. In all, the Mets bullpen pitched 4.2 innings, allowing three hits, three walks, and five strikeouts. Scott Rice and LaTroy Hawkins each got a double play to assist their outings.
- Ruben Tejada had a needed good game today. He got on base thrice (1-2, BB, HBP), scored the opening run from first on Recker’s double and stole what could’ve been a key base in the 7th inning. Defensively he handled all his chances easily. His throws looked on point, and cleanly turned double plays in the eighth and ninth. Tejada aggressively took third base on a pinch-hit Kirk Nieuwenhuis single (who smartly then took second), allowing Marlon Byrd to lace a walk-off hit down the third base line.
- Daniel Murphy hit his second home run of the series, and is showing excellent power potential. He didn’t hit his first home run until late June last year in Chicago. With his improving defense and some power coming back to his bat, Murphy could turn into one of the better second basemen in the majors. Murphy’s home run also continues the Mets’ streak, they’ve homered in every game so far this season.
- Mets pitchers did an excellent job containing Giancarlo Stanton in this series. He went 3-13 with six strikeouts and a walk in three games, his only RBI came on his only extra base hit – a double in the late innings of Friday’s loss.
Today’s game looked to become a laffer (and that’s with two ‘f’s) were it not for the bullpen who passed their first big test with flying colors. Laffey, on the other hand, did nothing to spell worries that the Mets’ rotation could suffer while Marcum is unavailable. Collin McHugh ought to get the next opportunity to start, but a decision may not come for a few days as a fifth starter won’t needed for more than a week. Nonetheless, today’s game will do little to quell the clamors for Zack Wheeler to join the big league club.
Base running in this series was again excellent. Juan Pierre‘s arm makes it easy to take an extra base, and the Mets did so with gusto. All spring long, Terry Collins preached that his team would be more aggressive on the paths, and they clearly ran themselves into a victory today.
Jose Fernandez was surprisingly good in his debut. The 20-year-old had never pitched above high-A ball, but was nonetheless aggressive and refined in his debut. It’s players like him who will keep the Marlins relevant, and keep them a thorn in the Mets’ side regardless of where the team ends up in the standings.
Major props to the bullpen (and to Scott Rice on his first Major League win), and to Ruben Tejada, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Marlon Byrd who pieced together a textbook ninth inning rally.Tomorrow:
The Mets take a trip down the New Jersey Turnpike tonight to play three in Philadelphia. Roy Halladay looks for his 200th career victory against the Amazins’. In a day where the Mets will likely need length from their starter, they’ll have Matt Harvey toeing the rubber. Harvey’s last start was fantastic, and could allow the Mets just that opportunity. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05PM.