Marlins deal Mets their fifth straight loss
NEW YORK — The Miami Marlins moved one step closer Friday night to salvaging something out of a disappointing season. The New York Mets moved one step closer to finishing the fire sale generated by their underperformance.
J.T. Realmuto hit a two-run homer in the second inning and Justin Nicolino posted his second straight win with five solid innings as the Marlins crept closer to .500 with a 3-1 win over the Mets at Citi Field.
While the streaking Marlins (59-61) won for the sixth time in seven games to move within within two games of .500 for the first time since May 3, the fifth straight loss for the free-falling Mets (53-67) was overshadowed by a postgame trade in which New York sent outfielder Curtis Granderson and cash considerations to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for a player to be named or cash considerations.
Granderson gained 33 games in the standings with the trade to the Dodgers, who have the best record in baseball at 86-34.
“A little bittersweet,” Granderson said before exchanging hugs and phone numbers with now ex-teammates such as Robert Gsellman and Wilmer Flores. “But to get an opportunity to play in the postseason is going to be exciting.”
Granderson, one of the few big-name free agent signings to work out for the Mets, was batting .228 with 19 homers and 52 RBIs this season.
He batted .239 with 95 homers and 247 RBIs while playing in 573 out of a possible 606 regular-season games for the Mets since signing as a free agent after the 2013 season. Granderson also hit .283 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 14 playoff games during the Mets’ World Series run in 2015.
Granderson is the fifth veteran traded since July 27 by the Mets, who reached the National League wild-card game last year and were expected to be one of the NL’s premier teams again this season.
But New York is 14 games below .500 for the first time since the end of the 2013 season and staring at the reality of trying to stay focused while playing out the string with unproven youngsters in the lineup and acres of empty seats at Citi Field, where the announced attendance Friday was 25,908.
“(With) all the rumors that are still flying, I think, yeah, the air might have been out of the building today a little bit,” said Mets manager Terry Collins, who spoke a few minutes before the trade was officially announced. “That’s my responsibility to make sure they get back and (are) ready for (Saturday).”
The Marlins, meanwhile, could be at .500 by the end of the weekend — no small feat for a team that was last at the break-even mark on April 27 and fell as many as 13 games below .500.
“Just try to keep the emphasis on trying to win series,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “Keep marching down the road. Obviously, we’ve got to get back to .500 before anything can happen. (Would) be good to be able to get there.”
Marcell Ozuna lofted a sacrifice fly in the third inning for the Marlins. Giancarlo Stanton, whose six-game home run streak was snapped in Miami’s previous game Wednesday, went 0-for-2 with two walks. Stanton leads the majors with 44 homers.
Nicolino (2-1) allowed one run, six hits and no walks while striking out one as he won consecutive starts for the first time since April 27-May 3, 2016. Four relievers combined to limit the Mets to one hit the rest of the way, with Brad Ziegler picking up his fifth save with a perfect ninth.
“He’s kept us in the game,” Mattingly said of Nicolino. “I think that’s what we’ve tried to ask, tried to get our guys buy into.
“It’s not really about six (innings), it’s not really about seven (innings). It’s really about leave the game with the lead, keep us in the game, let our bullpen go.”
Wilmer Flores had an RBI single in the fourth for the Mets. Asdrubal Cabrera and Amed Rosario each had two hits. Rosario added a stolen base.
Rookie right-hander Chris Flexen (2-2) took the loss after allowing the three runs, five hits and four walks while striking out one in 5 1/3 innings.
NOTES: The start of the game was delayed one hour and 53 minutes by rain. ... The matchup of Marlins LHP Justin Nicolino and Mets RHP Chris Flexen marked just the third time this season both starters in a game pitched at least five innings and had one strikeout or fewer. It also happened in a Marlins-San Francisco Giants game on Monday and an Atlanta Braves-Pittsburgh Pirates game on May 25. ... Mets INF Wilmer Flores returned to the lineup after missing two games with a sore left oblique. ... Marlins LHP Wei-Yin Chen (left elbow) threw a two-inning simulated game Friday.