Marlins 10, Mets 8
Bunts befuddled the New York Mets. They hit line drives that became double plays. And despite repeated tries, they couldn't get a third strike past Chris Coghlan.
So went the finale of the Mets' miserable trip to Miami. They lost 10-8 to the Florida Marlins, who completed their first four-game sweep since August 2006.
Coghlan culminated a 12-pitch at-bat with a three-run, pinch-hit homer in the seventh inning Sunday to stymie a Mets comeback bid.
``What an at-bat,'' Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. ``That's got to be one of the better at-bats I've seen anybody have. If that doesn't happen, we may still be out there playing.''
Two Mets errors helped the Marlins score four unearned runs en route to a 7-0 lead. New York cut the margin to 7-6 before Coghlan stepped to the plate.
He fouled off six two-strike pitches, then hit a 3-2 fastball over the center-field wall off Fernando Nieve.
``I couldn't draw it up any better than that,'' said Coghlan, last year's NL rookie of the year, whose average has climbed from .123 on April 24 to .214. ``It was a big at-bat for our team. To basically put the game out of reach, that's what you want to do coming off the bench.''
Mets left-hander Jonathon Niese (1-2) departed after re-injuring his right hamstring, which required season-ending surgery last Aug. 6. He'll return to New York for further evaluation.
``It was more a scare than anything,'' Niese said. ``I'm feeling a little sore now, nothing major. I don't want to miss a start. I'll do whatever I can, but that being said, I have to listen to the doctors.''
Niese left during a disastrous third inning for the Mets. They made errors on two bunts and the Marlins scored six runs.
New York also had two runners doubled off first in the early innings.
``We just didn't play well,'' manager Jerry Manuel said. ``We didn't play good baseball, and when you are facing a team on a good roll, you can't afford to do that.''
Ricky Nolasco (4-2) allowed two earned runs in six innings. Marlins starters have given up more than three runs just once this month while going 9-3 with an ERA of 2.97.
Leo Nunez allowed a run in the ninth but earned his ninth save in 11 chances.
Cody Ross had two hits in the third inning for Florida and finished 4 for 4. He also made a diving catch in left field and had an assist for the second game in a row.
Dan Uggla hit his ninth home run.
``This game is so funny,'' Uggla said. ``Up until three days ago, our bats had been really cold and it had been really tough to score runs. It's nice they finally came alive. You just want to build on that. The confidence and the swagger right now - we need to keep that rolling.''
It helps that Coghlan has started to hit. The homer was only his third extra-base hit this season, hiking his slugging percentage to .270.
David Wright and Alex Cora had two-run doubles for the Mets.
The Marlins' only other four-game sweep of the Mets was at Shea Stadium in 2004. Florida's last four-game sweep was Aug. 25-28, 2006, against Milwaukee.
``When you can sweep and win four in a row, that's huge,'' Coghlan said. ``You make up a lot of ground. When you play in the division and can take four, that's a big turning point.''
The last time the Mets were swept in a four-game series was June 5-8, 2008 at San Diego. They have the fewest road wins in the majors and head to Atlanta with a 4-12 record in away games.
``We've got to get some things straightened out,'' Manuel said. ``We have to make decisions and find the pieces that can get it done.''
Niese allowed five runs, two earned, in two-plus innings. He hurt himself when he fielded a bunt barehanded and planted awkwardly, and he threw only one more pitch before limping to the dugout.
The Mets already had a vacancy in their rotation with the demotion Saturday of left-hander Oliver Perez to the bullpen.
A sputtering lineup has been another issue, and Manuel continued to experiment with the order, batting Jason Bay third for the first time this season. Chris Carter made his third career start and batted cleanup.
NOTES: Mets RF Jeff Francoeur, batting .126 since April 16, was held out of the starting lineup. ... Niese remained 0-0 in five career starts in May with an ERA of 7.43. ... Ramirez went hitless and is batting .196 (9 for 46) against left-handers. ... Mets RHP Mike Pelfrey, scheduled to start Monday at Atlanta, is 1-2 with an 8.41 ERA in four games at Turner Field. His lone win there was in 2007.