Mets flop vs. severely-depleted, surging Marlins

More than a decade has passed since the Marlins had a winning season. They’ve spent the past two years buried at the bottom of the National League. They have the second-smallest payroll in the league. They endured a COVID-19 outbreak, afflicting 18 players, suspending their season for eight days and keeping them from home since …

More than a decade has passed since the Marlins had a winning season. They’ve spent the past two years buried at the bottom of the National League. They have the second-smallest payroll in the league. They endured a COVID-19 outbreak, afflicting 18 players, suspending their season for eight days and keeping them from home since July 22.

When Miami returned to the field this week, more than half the active roster had to be replaced. When they arrived at Citi Field on Friday, the Marlins sent out a starting pitcher with no experience above High-A ball.

Yet, the Mets were overmatched.

With one shaky frame from starter Michael Wacha and another quiet night at the plate, the last-place Mets returned from their first day off in two weeks by losing a 4-3 rain-soaked battle with the first-place Marlins, who stretched their stunning winning streak to six games and remain unbeaten since resuming play on Tuesday.

Wacha (1-2) suffered his second straight loss — and first against the Marlins in five career matchups — allowing four runs and six hits, while striking out nine and walking two on 98 pitches (64 strikes). Wacha, whose ERA rose to 6.43 following his third start with the team, was strong for much of the outing — improving on Saturday’s four-inning, five-run performance in Atlanta — but the right-hander put the Mets behind by surrendering four runs in the second inning.

A dejected J.D. Davis walks back to the dugout after striking out in the third inning of the Mets’ 4-3 loss to the Marlins on Friday night.N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

After striking out the side in the first inning, Wacha walked Brian Anderson and allowed a soft infield single to Matt Joyce, before former Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli hit a three-run homer to right field. A two-out walk to Magneuris Sierra set up Jonathan Villar’s hard-hit double to left center, putting Miami up 4-0.

As the rain fell harder and the grounds crew frantically worked to fight off a delay, the Mets looked like they couldn’t wait to get back in the dugout. Through seven innings, the Mets had just three hits and struck out 10 times.

In the second inning, Dominic Smith crushed a solo homer into the upper deck in right field for his second homer of the year — and team-high eighth RBI in his 19th at-bat of the season — but the Mets blew two early opportunities with runners in scoring position, struck out six times in 2 ²/₃ innings against debuting starter Humberto Mejia and failed to produce a hit from the fourth through seventh innings.

The drought ended with Amed Rosario’s leadoff double in the eighth, followed by a Brian Dozier walk, but Miami seemed to steal momentum back when Jeff McNeil was robbed on a liner to second by Eddy Alvarez’s leaping catch. Pete Alonso followed with a single to load the bases. Then, the Mets found fortune when Michael Conforto’s shot to third was stopped by a diving Anderson, whose throw home went wild. J.D. Davis then cut the deficit to one with a single to left, but the tying and go-ahead runs were stranded when Smith flied out to shallow center and Wilson Ramos grounded out to second.

Edwin Diaz’s third straight scoreless appearance — and the bullpen’s fourth consecutive game without allowing a run (14 innings) — provided another opportunity to complete the comeback, but the Mets couldn’t produce a base runner in their final at-bat.

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