MIAMI — The New York Mets, who had won five straight games entering Friday, have suddenly lost two straight contests, wasting great pitching performances by Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom.
On Sunday, the Mets will start their third straight ace, right-hander Matt Harvey (2-0, 2.92 ERA), against the host Miami Marlins.
Mets manager Terry Collins will go for the win to split this four-game series. But he made it clear that he will not overextend his brilliant rotation, especially when three of them are coming off recent arm injuries — Harvey, deGrom and Zack Wheeler — and a fourth, Syndergaard, has battled blister and fingernail issues in his past two starts.
“I want to protect these guys,” Collins said Saturday night. “It is easy to second-guess when a guy blows a save. But we have three guys coming off surgery.”
The Mets’ bullpen was brilliant in Thursday’s 16-inning win over Miami, combining to pitch 11 1/3 scoreless innings. But the Mets relievers have been exposed the past two games as Josh Edgin (0-1) took the loss on Friday and Fernando Salas (0-1) had the blemish on Saturday.
New York has three games left before it gets back closer Jeurys Familia, who was suspended 15 games by Major League Baseball after he was involved in a domestic dispute with his wife.
Familia has a career 2.46 ERA and 94 saves the past two years. Had he been available on Saturday, the Mets probably use Addison Reed in the eighth and Familia in the ninth and perhaps deGrom’s 4-2 lead is protected and New York wins.
Instead, the Mets are just 7-5 and have one game left in this series against a feisty Marlins team that is 6-5 overall but 4-2 against New York.
The Marlins hit four homers on Saturday — twice going deep on consecutive at-bats — and have given the Mets fits.
Miami will start Dan Straily (1-1, 7.56 ERA) on Sunday in an attempt to stick it to the Mets again. The Marlins acquired Straily in January, handing three fairly good prospects over to the Cincinnati Reds.
The hope for Miami is that Straily, who is on his fifth major league team despite being just 28 years old, is not a journeyman but actually a pitcher who turned a corner last season when he went 14-8 with a 3.76 ERA.
He had gone a combined 1-4 the previous two years so there is plenty of doubt as to whether Straily’s 2016 numbers are sustainable.
In two starts this season, Straily has pitched a total of just 8 1/3 innings, allowing nine hits, four walks, two homers and eight runs.
Fortunately for the Marlins, their offense has been rolling.
“A lot of good things are happening,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “It’s going to be a fun summer.”
Giancarlo Stanton, who had the go-ahead homer to beat the Mets on Saturday, expressed confidence in his team’s depth.
“A different hero every night is what we need,” Stanton said.
That’s what’s been happening lately — especially against the Mets.