Luis Rojas’ impending rotation shake-up put the Mets in peril Wednesday night in Miami, but a dependable bat helped ensure the team didn’t have to bleed before the experiment could potentially succeed.
Michael Conforto turned a blown save by this Seth Lugo-less bullpen into a magical moment in this Mets’ season. Conforto’s ball cleared the center-field fence in the ninth inning for a two-run homer that led to a 5-3 victory over the Marlins.
“It was good to get one over the wall and win the series right now,” said Conforto, whose Mets own a three-game winning streak for the first time this season.
Rojas had been cryptic about his rotation plans, but after the game announced that Lugo will be stretched out as a starter beginning Thursday and replace the struggling Steven Matz. The lefty Matz, who has pitched to a 9.00 ERA this season, will work from the bullpen in an attempt to get on track.
The bold move — Lugo is the Mets’ most dependable reliever — meant the Mets had to survive Wednesday with alternative plans after Jacob deGrom was removed following the sixth.
Dellin Betances and Edwin Diaz flushed deGrom’s win in the eighth, but in the ninth Conforto followed Brandon Nimmo’s two-out single against Brandon Kintzler with his blast for the go-ahead runs. Diaz struck out the side in the ninth to finish it.
“If the save was blown, that is something that happens, too, but we trust these guys,” Rojas said.
Betances, working for a second straight day, was entrusted a 3-1 lead in the eighth and couldn’t protect it. After Betances drilled Eddy Alvarez with the bases loaded to force in a run, Diaz entered and walked Logan Forsythe on five pitches to tie it.
DeGrom, returning to the rotation after his last start was skipped because of neck stiffness, allowed four hits over six shutout innings and struck out seven. He was removed after throwing 91 pitches and watched as Jeurys Familia and Justin Wilson survived the seventh with one run scoring to pull Miami within 2-1.
“Not pitching in 10 days I was a little rusty and got tired quicker than I would have liked,” deGrom said. “But we were fortunate enough to get a win.
“I was a little tired [after six innings]. I don’t really like to admit that, but I could definitely feel it and I think that goes to the 10 days.”
DeGrom’s dominant return was welcomed by the Mets, who had survived starts by Robert Gsellman and Corey Oswalt in the first two games of this series. Walker Lockett had replaced deGrom as the starter last Friday in Philadelphia and allowed six runs over five innings in a Mets loss. The Mets are also without lefty David Peterson, who was placed on the injured list this week with swelling in his shoulder.
With deGrom removed, Familia walked Francisco Cervelli leading off the seventh, allowing the Marlins to pull within a run on Wilson’s wild pitch later in the inning.
But the Mets got that run back in their next at-bat, as Dominic Smith delivered an RBI double after Conforto had been hit by a pitch and J.D. Davis walked. The sizzling Smith has 16 extra-base hits in 65 at-bats this season and leads the team with 21 RBIs.
Luis Guillorme was instrumental in two Mets’ scoring rallies and finished 2-for-4 with an RBI, as his impressive play continued offensively and defensively.
It was Guillorme’s double, slapped over third base in the second inning, that led to the Mets scoring their first run against Pablo Lopez on Wilson Ramos’ sacrifice fly. In the seventh, Guillorme stroked an RBI single — after Pete Alonso had been intentionally walked — to extend the Mets’ lead to 2-0. Smith was also in the middle of that rally with a double to right leading off the inning.
Guillorme also ranged toward second base on Brian Anderson’s grounder to begin the fourth and threw out Anderson on an off-balance play. In all eight of his starts this season, Guillorme has at least one hit.