By Zach Gewelb
The Mets managed to avoid getting swept, but still dropped two out of three games to the Miami Marlins in their second series of the season. New York lost the first two games of the series before bouncing back to win the rubber match, which was the final game of the Mets’ six-game home stand to begin the 2017 season.
Zack Wheeler pitched the first game of the series and struggled in his return to the rotation, giving up five runs in four innings in a 7-2 loss. Josh Smoker relieved Wheeler and gave up two runs, but the rest of the Mets’ bullpen pitched relatively well.
Rafael Montero tossed 2 2/3 shutout innings, while Josh Edgin pitched two scoreless frames.
Offensively, the Mets’ bats were mostly quiet.
New York took a 1-0 lead on a Curtis Granderson RBI single in the bottom of the first, but Miami scored seven consecutive runs and kept the Mets’ bats at bay until the eighth inning, when Yoenis Cespedes launched a solo home run — his first of the season — to make the score 7-2, which would prove to be the final.
The Mets turned to Robert Gsellman to start the second game of the series and the righty pitched five innings of three-run ball. Gsellman surrendered one run in each of the first three innings as New York fell behind 3-0. New York inched closer in the fifth, when a Lucas Duda home run cut Miami’s lead to 3-1, but the Marlins scored one run in the seventh inning off Hansel Robles and two runs in both the eighth and ninth to take a commanding 8-1 lead, which secured the victory and the series win.
Reliever Paul Sewald gave up the two runs in the eighth, and Montero surrendered the two runs in the ninth.
Outside of Duda’s home run, the Mets recorded just two more hits — both singles — the rest of the game, as their offense continued to struggle, scoring just two runs in the first 18 innings of the series.
That changed in the rubber match, when New York took an early lead and secured a 5-2 victory behind the arm of ace Noah Syndergaard.
The Mets scored three runs in the first inning and never looked back, taking advantage of an early Marlins mistake. Asdrubal Cabrera and Cespedes each singled to give New York runners at first and third with just one out with Jay Bruce coming to the plate. The lefty chopped a slow grounder to first, but Justin Bour’s throw to the plate was mishandled by Miami catcher J.T. Realmuto, which allowed Cabrera to score.
Neil Walker plated Cespedes with an RBI single for the second run of the inning and a bases loaded walk from Michael Conforto brought home the third and final run of the frame.
That proved to be enough run support from Syndergaard, who cruised past the first two innings before running into some trouble in the third.
Miami second baseman Dee Gordon ripped a two-run double the opposite way down the left field line, making the score 3-2.
The inning could have been worse, but Rene Rivera — Syndergaard’s personal catcher — caught two Marlins trying to steal to avoid further damage.
Jay Bruce slugged a solo home run in the fifth and Conforto hit his first round-tripper of the season in the sixth to give the Mets a 5-2 lead.
Syndergaard settled into a groove and pitched seven strong innings, showing no ill effects from his Opening Day blister. The hard-throwing righty allowed just five hits and no walks, while striking out nine, setting the stage for Fernando Salas and Addison Reed to shut down the Marlins in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively.
Syndergaard improved to 1-0 with the victory and lowered his ERA down to 0.69 through his first two starts. Reed recorded the save, his first of the season.
The Mets will take a 3-3 record on the road, where they will open a three-game series in Philadelphia against the Phillies (3-3). Jacob deGrom will square off against Jerad Eickhoff in Monday night’s opener, while Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler will pitch the final two games of the series.
The series kicks off Monday night, with the first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at Citizens Bank Park.
Reach reporter Zach Gewelb by e-mail at zgewe