New York starter Jonathan Niese came into Sunday’s contest having allowed no more than three runs in 18 consecutive starts. That includes going up against opponents who stack the deck with an all-righty lineup.
“Everybody seems to be throwing all right-handed lineups at him,” Mets manager Terry Collins said, “and it doesn’t seem to bother him.”
Even the Marlins adopted the trend – everyone in the lineup with the exception of the newly recalled Derek Dietrich was a right-handed hitter.
That strategy did little to deter Niese, who extended his streak to 19 – the longest active streak in the Majors -- by pitching six innings of three-run ball with two walks and four strikeouts. With a 2.78 ERA in 15 starts, opposing teams should learn that stacking the deck doesn’t work on him.
“He has an equalizing pitch against righties,” Mets catcher Anthony Recker said. “He’s got that good cutter which he can throw in. It makes him a lot more effective because they have to be more aware if it gets over the plate. Most lefties like to sit on the outside corner of the plate and righties like to pick at pitches down and away. So it fits right in with his regular game plan.”
The three runs Niese gave up all came in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Marlins’ only glimmer of hope throughout the entire game. After only being able to muster two little hits in the first five innings, the all-righty lineup seemed to finally work for the Marlins. They used every hitter in the lineup and scored three runs until Dietrich (the lone lefty) struck out with the bases loaded to end the rally.
Marlins starter Anthony DiSclafani was chased in the fourth inning after giving up seven runs to the Mets which was punctuated with a three-run home run by second baseman Daniel Murphy. With 92 hits this season, Murphy is now tied with Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks with the most hits in the National League.
"His first inning looked good, but the second inning, he made a lot of mistakes out over the plate," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said of DeSclafani, whose ERA spiked up to 7.59. "His pitches were up in the zone, and against a team like this, especially their middle of the order, they can do a lot of damage up in the zone. Not only today, but over the whole series, their middle-of-the-order guys did a lot of damage against us, and we weren't able to hold them in check."
“From what I saw, he didn’t throw the slider for a strike enough,” Recker said. “We were able to focus on his fastball more. No matter how good your fastball is, big league hitters can hit one if they know it’s coming.”
After their sixth inning rally fell short, the Marlins’ moral sunk. After holding them scoreless in 2.1 innings of relief, in The Mets added four more runs on Marlins reliever Jacob Turner in the seventh inning.
Redmond scraped the all-righty lineup and took first baseman Jeff Baker and right fielder Giancarlo Stanton out of the game for Justin Bour and Jake Marisnick. Taking Stanton out early raised some concern but according to Redmond, there’s nothing to worry about.
"We just wanted to give him a couple innings off. He never wants to come out of a game, but he's fine," Redmond said.
Bour hit a two run double in the bottom of the ninth in an effort to spark another rally, but in baseball, eleven runs is an insurmountable deficit.
The Marlins lost their third home series in a row. They were 20 – 12 at home in the first two months of the season, but now are 5 – 8 in June. Their final home series of the month is against the American League West leading Oakland Athletics then they go into July where ten of their 26 games are at home.
“This was not a great homestand for us, no doubt, and everyone recognizes that," Redmond said as his players packed for a four-game road trip to Philadelphia. "But we've got to move on and turn the page. We're still right there. There's no time to panic, just keep fighting and battling. ... Nobody's quitting in there. We're going to go through some bumps in the road. It happens to every team. Up to this point, we really have overall played good baseball. We just need to ride this thing out. It might take a great pitching performance or a huge hit or a series of both to get us out of this. We need five starters to keep us in the game, that's the bottom line."