MIAMI — Sometimes in baseball, you get a tense, back-and-forth game full of lead changes that makes each pitch feel like the most important of the game.
Then sometimes, like the Mets and Marlins did in two hours and 34 minutes on Saturday night in Miami, you get a game where both teams look like they have plans afterward. The Mets’ 4-0 win over their sinking NL East pals was close heading into the final two frames but never felt dramatic. A third inning home run from Jeff McNeil — which came out of the eighth spot as the All-Star’s .183 batting average in July moved him down in the order — was bolstered by Francisco Lindor and J.D. Davis’ matching solo shots in the eighth and kept anyone in blue and orange from having to break into a nervous sweat.
Those were also the only offensive highlights of the game, unless you count Marlins’ rookie Charles LeBlanc recording his first MLB hit and then immediately getting picked off second by catcher Tomas Nido.
A pitcher’s duel certainly doesn’t have to lack intrigue, but with the Marlins looking like they found their hitters in the parking lot, they never gave the impression that they were in this game. Carlos Carrasco dissolved their bats for 7.2 innings, needing just 93 pitches to give the Mets’ their 63rd win of the season, trailing only the Dodgers in the National League’s overall standings. On an individual level, the dazzling day at the office also resulted in Carrasco’s 100th career MLB win.
“It means a lot,” Carrasco reflected. “I’ve been doing this for a long time. Getting 100 wins means a lot, and even more, doing it with this special group right here. I couldn’t do it without them.”
Facing an inexperienced group that featured three rookies (including one, LeBlanc, who made his Major League debut), Carrasco used his slider and changeup to expose the young and shallow lineup. Try as they might, the Fish only cobbled together four hits off the Venezeuelan vet, who racked up seven strikeouts and eight ground ball outs, the least menacing outcomes a pitcher could hope for.
“I was able to take control,” Carrasco said. “I just threw the best pitch that I could. That’s what we had in the scouting report, and that’s why we won today.”
The slider and changeup got Carrasco ten whiffs on the 22 swings he generated on them. When he was on the mound, Miami only had one plate appearance with a runner in scoring position, which came in the very first inning. As the Mets continue trying to figure out what to do with their bullpen in anticipation of the trade deadline and the imminent return of Trevor May from his arm injury, Carrasco mostly gave them a night off.
“I’m just so glad that he’s been able to stay healthy, pitch well this year, and remind everybody what a good pitcher he’s been for a long time,” Buck Showalter said. “I think everybody pulls so hard for him.”
When Carrasco departed for Seth Lugo, the fans behind the Mets’ dugout at loanDepot Park gave him a standing ovation. Even Marlins’ shortstop Miguel Rojas, a fellow Venezuelan who was making his way to the on-deck circle, couldn’t help but tip his cap. The list of important figures leaving their imprint on this Mets’ season is hefty, which is how a team wins so many games, and Carrasco is right up there with his more famous teammates.
For Lindor, who displayed some phenomenal hitting acumen on an RBI single in the third inning as well, the homer was the undoubted dagger. Waking up the Mets’ faction of the sparse crowd, his ball careened into and out of the upper deck, falling back onto the field as a sort of reminder that the Marlins still had more baseball to play.
“If we go into the ninth inning 2-0, I think Edwin [Diaz] has to come in,” Lindor said of the add-on runs he and Davis supplied. “Then we probably can’t use him tomorrow. So, those couple runs at the end help. We got Sugar tomorrow.”
Davis’ big fly was hit even harder and traveled even further. Pinch-hitting for Daniel Vogelbach to counter the Marlins’ bringing in a lefty, Davis showed why he can still, sometimes, bring a little value as a southpaw killer. Richard Bleier’s sinker at the knees got a 444-foot plane ride into the artificial plants beyond the center field wall. Davis knew it, too. His last home run was on July 7, and the oft-maligned hitter made sure to get a good look at this one.
Sunday means a chance to sweep the Marlins. Monday is Max Scherzer day, and on Tuesday, everyone expects Jacob deGrom to grace a big-league mound for the first time in over a year. It’s not a bad time to be a New York Met.
“It’s hard to put into words,” said McNeil, who got the playful silent treatment in the dugout after the home run helped him emerge from a fallow period. “I love this team and my teammates give me a bunch of support.”