Emotional Marlins aim to dent Mets' hopes again
MIAMI -- Don Mattingly was a New York Yankees minor-leaguer when Thurman Munson died in a plane crash on Aug. 2, 1979.
Munson was the Yankees' 32-year-old star catcher -- a seven-time All-Star, a three-time Gold Glove winner, a two-time World Series champion and a former Rookie of the Year and American League MVP.
The Miami Marlins, the team Mattingly now manages, suffered a horrific tragedy of their early own early Sunday morning when 24-year-old pitcher Jose Fernandez -- already a two-time All-Star -- died in a high-speed boat crash.
Mattingly said he can see the correlation to what the Yankees lost in Munson and what the Marlins lost in Fernandez.
"It feels like that," Mattingly said. "The way we talk about Jose and his personality, you are not going to forget that. Jose will have a presence in this organization even after we're long gone."
Fernandez's tragic death seemed to inspire the Marlins (78-78) on Monday in a 7-3 win over the New York Mets. It was the Marlins' first game after Fernandez's body was discovered and after the scheduled Sunday game against the Atlanta Braves was cancelled.
The Mets (83-74) clearly ran into a team determined to honor Fernandez, but whether that emotion can carry over to Tuesday is another question.
New York will start right-hander Noah Syndergaard, whose turn was moved back a couple of days due to step throat.
Syndergaard, whose fastball consistently clocks at 100 mph, is 13-9 this year with a 2.63 ERA. He has been fairly consistent all year, winning six games at home and seven on the road and posting a 2.56 ERA before the All-Star break and a 2.75 ERA after the Midsummer Classic.
However, given his electric stuff, he probably hasn't been as dominant as the Mets would like, especially with the team in a tight playoff race. New York sits in the first NL wild-card position, a half-game above San Francisco (82-74). The St. Louis Cardinals (81-75) are a game behind the Giants.
Miami will counter Syndergaard with right-hander Tom Koehler, who is 9-12 with a 4.02 ERA.
Koehler will make his ninth attempt this season at getting his 10th win. He is 0-4 in his past eight starts and hasn't won a game since Aug. 9 vs. the Giants.
Against the Mets for his career, he is 2-7 with a 4.37 ERA. This year against New York, he is 0-2 with a 5.63 ERA.
Mets manager Terry Collins, though, is clearly concerned that his team will once again get caught up in the emotion of what is happening with the Marlins and their loss of Fernandez.
"It was a tough night (on Monday), but we have to move on," Collins said. "I saw some real emotion (before the game). You can understand that from their team, but you saw some of our guys who were touched by the whole thing, too.
"We are all going to miss (Fernandez) for a long time. He will be in our minds forever. But we have to get back to business now."