Grieving Marlins officially eliminated from playoff contention
MIAMI (AP) -- The Marlins walked half a block alongside a hearse carrying their ace away from Marlins Park at the start of a funeral motorcade Wednesday, and then peeled away with watery eyes to go back inside and play a game.
Drained by four days of grieving Jose Fernandez's death, they didn't have much left for the New York Mets.
Jay Bruce hit his 32nd home run, James Loney also homered and the Mets helped their NL wild-card chances by beating Miami 5-2.
"It was tough to have a ton of emotion out there," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "I think our guys did the best they possibly could. It's just hard to make up emotion. It was just a rough game to play, to be honest."
New York began the night leading the Giants by half a game, and the Cardinals lost Wednesday to fall 2 1/2 games behind in the race for the two wild-card spots. The Mets conclude the regular season with three games at Philadelphia starting Friday.
The Marlins' loss in their home finale eliminated them from playoff contention. Despite high hopes this year, they still haven't been to the postseason since 2003.
That was the last thing on their minds five hours before first pitch. They wore T-shirts reading "RIP" while clustering around the limousine carrying Fernandez's casket to church for a viewing. Spectators, including Mets players and manager Terry Collins, lined the start of the route.
"It was terrible," Miami pitcher Tom Koehler said. "I never thought I'd have to be part of that. You have a 24-year-old who is on top of the world, and we're walking behind his hearse. We're watching Miami's hero drive down the street."
Added reliever Mike Dunn: "You felt like you were pushing off your brother."
Sympathetic as they are, the Mets are also in a tight wild-card race. Loney hit a two-run homer in the second, and Bruce added a two-run homer in the fifth off Jose Urena (4-9). Curtis Granderson went 4 for 4, and Jose Reyes doubled home a run.
The Mets won the final two games of the series after losing an emotion-filled opener Monday.
"We made as much a tribute to Jose as we could without getting overboard with it," Collins said. "We had games to play that are very meaningful to us. I thought the guys after Monday night realized that we had to go out and play. We had some great at-bats the last couple of nights."
Seth Lugo (5-2) went 5 1/3 innings and allowed two runs, both on Martin Prado's eighth homer.
Four relievers completed a seven-hitter, and Jeurys Familia pitched a perfect ninth for his 50th save -- with Fernandez on his mind.
"His passing left us in a state of shock," Familia said in Spanish. "It was very painful playing this series, but at the same time, we wanted to dedicate these games to him."
When the series finale ended, several Marlins kneeled at the mound, honoring Fernandez one last time before leaving the field. His private funeral is Thursday.
"Everybody was exhausted, thinking of all the stuff we went through in the last three or four days," Prado said. "But the beautiful thing about this is we've been together all these days."
The Mets finished 12-7 against Miami. The Marlins finished 40-40 at home.
GOOD SEATS STILL AVAILABLE
The announced crowd was 24,335. The Marlins finished last in the NL in attendance for the 11th time in the past 12 years, averaging 21,405 per game.
As the Mets chase one of the two wild-card berths, Collins is already weighing potential pitching decisions on the final day of the regular season Sunday, when Noah Syndergaard is scheduled to start.
"If you wake up Sunday morning and say, `OK, we're in', but we don't necessarily have home-field advantage, do we use Syndergaard?" Collins asked. "Or do we say, `He's going to pitch the first playoff game, no matter where it's at?'"
If the Mets have clinched home-field advantage, they might start Syndergaard on Sunday and have him throw about 25 pitches to ensure he's sharp for the wild-card playoff game on Wednesday.
"Otherwise he goes eight days without pitching," Collins said.
RHP Bartolo Colon (14-8, 3.42) might start Friday on short rest when the Mets open their final regular season series at Philadelphia. RHP Robert Gsellman (3-2, 2.56) is also an option, but Colon threw only 47 pitches when he took the loss Monday against Miami.
Marlins RHP Andrew Cashner (5-11, 5.13) will make his final start Friday at Washington.