NEW YORK — The magic touch that New York Mets starting pitcher Steven Matz possesses in starts at home deserted him at the worst possible time. Fitting enough, a Miami Marlins rookie who has had magic of his own against New York was the Mets’ undoing for tonight and, more than likely, ended any realistic playoff hopes New York entertained going into the season’s final week.
Marlins catcher Jorge Alfaro clubbed two home runs, including a sixth-inning grand slam off of Matz that proved to be the decisive blow in Miami’s 8-4 victory over the New York Mets on Monday night. The loss, along with the Nationals’ victory in Washington against Philadelphia, dropped the Mets’ tragic number to two as they are five games back of a Wild Card spot with six games remaining. The prospect of New York being eliminated from postseason contention by the end of tomorrow’s play is a reality.
Needing to be virtually perfect in the final seven games of the season, the Mets figured they had the ideal man on the mound to start the home stand as Matz came in to tonight sporting a 7-1 record with a 1.94 ERA in 15 games (13 starts) at Citi Field this season. Leading off the second, however, Alfaro blasted a long home run down the left field line to open the scoring.
Miami added a run in the third when Jon Berti’s two-out double was followed by an RBI single from Miguel Rojas to double the Marlins’ lead.
New York left at least one runner on base in each of the first five innings, including the bases loaded in the first and two more men stranded in the third. Both times, Mets third baseman Todd Frazier made the final out, popping out on the infield on each occasion.
Those missed opportunities became magnified in the sixth, as three straight singles to begin the inning loaded the bases for Miami before Alfaro drove a 1-1 pitch from Matz over the right-centerfield wall for his first-career grand slam. Alfaro now has six career home runs against the Mets, more than against any other opponent, while batting .315 in 95 career at-bats against New York.
This is Jorge Alfaro's 2nd homer tonight.
It's a grand slam.
BE CHILL. pic.twitter.com/NxqXb5qyvf
— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) September 24, 2019
The Mets climbed back into the game with a grand slam of their own in the bottom of the frame, with Amed Rosario sending an 0-1 pitch from Marlins starter Caleb Smith over the wall in left to cut New York’s deficit to 6-4. Rosario’s homer marked the 10th time in Major League history that grand slams were hit by both teams in the same inning, the last such instance occurring in 2008.
Any chance for the Mets to build off that momentum were stunted in the next half inning on an overturned call. With the bases loaded and two out, New York appeared to get out of the inning on a ground ball to first from the bat of Harold Ramirez, with New York reliever Brad Brach appearing to beat Ramirez to the first base bag. The review showed Ramirez slide his left foot onto the edge of the bag just before Brach stepped on first, allowing both Curtis Granderson and Jon Berti to score on the play.
Matz allowed nine hits and six earned runs, while the two runs New York’s bullpen allowed were charged to reliever Walker Lockett.
Smith went six innings to earn the win for the Marlins, allowing four runs and seven hits while striking out three. Miami’s bullpen worked three scoreless innings, with four pitchers combining to allow just one hit while striking out four.
Berti recorded a career-high four hits and scored three runs for Miami. All five of Berti’s games with at least three hits have come since the start of August.