"There's no real secret to it," hitting coach Dave Hudgens said. "They pretty much took care of us."
The Marlins did so Wednesday behind New York native Tom Koehler, ensuring that another strong Mets starting pitching performance -- this one from Zack Wheeler -- would go to waste. Deadly efficient all afternoon, Koehler needed just 95 pitches to finish eight innings. Had the Fish scored any runs for him, he likely would have received a chance to complete Miami's second consecutive shutout on his own.
Instead, Wheeler matched Koehler in success if not efficiency, forcing Miami to remove him for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the eighth. That move did not pay dividends, but the Marlins finally broke through for a single and a walk against Carlos Torres to open the ninth. After the next batter sent a fly ball to the warning track, Mets manager Terry Collins removed Torres in favor of closer Kyle Farnsworth, who gave up Ozuna's slicing line drive toward right-center.
Off the bat, Collins thought that center fielder Juan Lagares had an opportunity to nail Giancarlo Stanton at the plate. But Lagares' throw sailed well wide of home, giving catcher Anthony Recker little chance to glove it, turn and tag Stanton before the Marlins walked off winners against the Mets for the seventh time in 22 games since Marlins Park opened.
"I tried to throw it as quickly as I could," Lagares said. "I just did what I could."
So did Wheeler, who struck out seven, but thanks in large part to five walks, needed 104 pitches to complete six innings. Wheeler did that with aplomb, holding the Marlins to two hits -- both singles -- and zero runs. But the result was yet another no-decision for Wheeler, who has one win to show for five quality starts.
No inning encapsulated Wheeler's outing better than the sixth. After walking the first two batters he faced, Wheeler induced a 5-4-3 double play ball from Stanton, with Daniel Murphy's relay throw beating Stanton by fractions of a second. Wheeler then walked Casey McGehee, before coaxing an inning-ending grounder out of Garrett Jones.
That was his final pitch of the game. Jeurys Familia followed with a dominant seventh inning, before Torres -- who had been nursing a minor back injury -- entered in the eighth.
"He's got the stuff to be really, really good here," Collins said of Wheeler, who might need to be with this type of run support.
The Mets, who entered the day ranked 29th in baseball in OPS, simply could not score against Koehler, winning pitcher Steve Cishek or anyone else. Hudgens' offense faced five different pitchers in the three-game series at Marlins Park, plating a total of three runs against them.
Hudgens, Collins, David Wright and others all offered credit to Miami's pitching staff, which is clearly much improved from last season. But outside of a few promising blips -- 10 runs in a loss to the Rockies over the weekend, 16 in two games against the D-backs last month -- every pitching staff in the league has been doing this to the Mets.
When they stepped off the field for the final time Wednesday, the Mets did so with the league's 26th-ranked offense and 29th-ranked slugging percentage. No help is close on the Minor League front, and the Mets have already eschewed opportunities to augment their offense through free agency or trades.
They will simply need to improve from within, taking their scuffling bunch of hitters and finding a way to coax wins out of them.
"We work every day," Hudgens said. "Obviously, guys are in the cage, they're working on things -- everybody's working on something every day. We're not just sitting back and hoping it happens."