MIAMI -- It will take weeks, months, even years for the Marlins to recover from the death of Jose Fernandez. In some ways, they never will. But they at least attempted to restore a sense of normalcy on Tuesday night at Marlins Park, where the Mets scored a 12-1 victory in a game bursting with National League Wild Card implications.
"Obviously, hearts are still heavy, and they're going to be for the rest of the year here -- probably for a long time after that, too," Mets outfielder Jay Bruce said. "But we needed to win this game today, and we were able to do that."
Making his first start since catching a case of strep throat last week, Noah Syndergaard struck out eight over six innings, while Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes backed him with two-run homers. With both the Giants and Cardinals winning, the Mets remained a half-game ahead of San Francisco for the NL's top Wild Card spot and 1 1/2 games in front of St. Louis.
"It's real encouraging," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We've got four to go. We've just got to play them out."
For the Marlins, the loss evaporated any margin for error they had left in their postseason chase. They must win all of their remaining games to qualify -- and even that is unlikely to be enough.
The 19 hits allowed by Miami are a season high, topping the 18 at Milwaukee on May 1.
Marlins starter Tom Koehler struggled early, walking four batters and allowing six hits, including both Mets home runs. New York then piled on late, putting the game away on a Curtis Granderson two-run single and a Lucas Duda bases-clearing double in the eighth. Duda reached base in four of his five plate appearances.
Koehler, who developed a close friendship with Fernandez, noted the night felt "different."
"I think everybody is doing the best they can," Koehler said. "This is something we're not trained to handle anything like this. As professional athletes, we kind of get desensitized to a lot of things that happen. We're able to go out there and play, regardless of the situation."
All throughout, memories of Fernandez remained close at hand. The Marlins kept Fernandez's No. 16 painted on the back of the pitcher's mound, while a memorial outside the park continued to grow with flowers, signs and signatures.
"I'm just really proud of our guys, the way they're continuing to play and get ready," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "We're still dealing with stuff and having meetings on a daily basis about what's going to happen next and things like that. There is still stuff that is going on, and I'm proud of our guys, with the way they're playing and staying after it, and basically trying to compartmentalize what they're dealing with. It's hard to put the whole season in perspective with what's been happening right now."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Back to the grind: Originally slated to start Saturday against the Phillies, Syndergaard came down with a case of strep throat severe enough to push his outing back three days. Though the Mets said they would watch Syndergaard closely, he appeared to be at least close to full strength, striking out five batters in the second and third innings alone. Now lined up to pitch the Mets' final game of the regular season, Syndergaard punctuated his outing with strikeouts of the final two batters he faced, Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton in the sixth.
"I felt great, felt strong out there," Syndergaard said. "I felt like I could locate my sinker to both sides of the plate whenever I needed to. I felt like I was able to get ahead of hitters really well tonight. That was the ultimate goal." More >
Dee bunts, offense fizzles: A night after his dramatic leadoff homer, Dee Gordon did a complete reversal on Tuesday night. The speedster dropped a bunt single to start the first. Gordon then swiped second and scored on Marcell Ozuna's RBI single to right. But after that, Syndergaard settled down and didn't allow another run over six innings. Gordon, of course, belted one of the most significant home runs in Marlins history on Monday, when in tribute to Fernandez, he got the first inning going with his first homer of the season.
"I thought we hung in there," Mattingly said. "You can think of anything, but I look at Syndergaard. Really, the momentum of the game is controlled by the starting pitcher. Dee gets us on the board, getting on base, and [Ozuna] hits the ball the other way. From there, like we see a lot of starting pitchers, they're going to settle down. This cat's got great stuff. To me, as much as anything, it was that."
Mixed results: Once again receiving steady playing time following a prolonged benching during the Mets' last homestand, Bruce responded in the second inning with his 31st homer -- and his sixth in 46 games with the Mets. But four innings later, given a chance to crack a three-run game open, Bruce battled for 11 pitches before flying out with the bases loaded and two outs. He finished 2-for-5.
"I like where I am right now," Bruce said. "I can hopefully just finish strong and help us get into a good position for that home Wild Card game."
Homers hurt Koehler: Koehler, for the most part, has been successful keeping the ball in the park. But the Marlins' right-hander has had trouble this season preventing the long ball against the Mets. Bruce (second inning) and Cespedes (third) each belted two-run homers. Seven of the 22 homers Koehler has surrendered in 32 starts have been against New York. He hasn't allowed more than three to any other opponent.
"It was different," Koehler said of pitching while grieving. "Just stretching and getting warm. Everything just had a different feel to it. It's hard to explain, really."
"I'm sure our guys are exhausted. But I just think it was a game where the momentum was controlled by their guy [Syndergaard], and we weren't able to get anything across." -- Mattingly
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Marlins infielder Yefri Perez, who underwent left thumb surgery in July while playing for Double-A Jacksonville, was a September callup primarily to pinch-run. In fact, earlier in the month, he was only available to run. In the eighth inning, in his second big league at-bat, Perez collected his first hit, a single to left. He previously had one at-bat, a strikeout in Philadelphia on Sept. 17. He recorded four stolen bases before his first Major League hit. More >
Since his return from the disabled list earlier this month, Juan Lagares had been capable only of bunting at the plate. But Lagares decided to test the surgically repaired ligament in his left thumb in the ninth, swinging away one inning after entering as a defensive replacement. Lagares plated the Mets' final run with a sacrifice fly.
WHAT'S NEXT Mets: Looking to score a series victory at Marlins Park, the Mets will turn to Seth Lugo in the rookie's final start of the regular season. Lugo, a candidate to start the NL Wild Card game if the Mets qualify, is 4-1 with a 2.59 ERA in seven starts since joining the rotation.
Marlins: Miami closes out its home schedule at 7:10 p.m. ET on Wednesday. Right-hander Jose Urena (4-8, 5.95 ERA) will start for the Marlins. Urena is 1-5 (5.85 ERA) in 40 innings pitched this year at Marlins Park.