The New York Mets can pretty much forget about making a dent in the National league East at 14 games off the pace.
With less than two months to go in the regular season, a 9 1/2-game deficit in the Wild Card standings can still be erased with much-improved play.
The Mets will have to solve their home woes first and look to even a three- game series against the Miami Marlins tonight at Citi Field, where they have lost eight in a row and haven't prevailed since July 7 versus the Cubs. They opened a six-game homestand and this series with Tuesday's 4-2 setback, as Jon Niese allowed all four runs in six innings. He had pitched at least seven innings or more in eight of his previous 10 starts.
Niese also struck out with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the fifth inning after Daniel Murphy homered and Andre Torres stroked an RBI single to chip away at Miami's lead. Mets manager Terry Collins could have called on a pinch-hitter, but opted to keep Niese in the game.
"I thought he'd hit the ball," Collins said on the club's website. "I thought we had a lot of game left, and I didn't want to use up my bench in that one inning."
Ruben Tejada went 1-for-5 to extend his career-high hitting streak to 12 games for the Mets, who matched their longest home losing streak since 2007 at Shea Stadium and will also host Atlanta for three games on this residency. The Mets last lost nine straight as the host in 2004.
David Wright still needs one more home run to reach 200 in his career and will join Darryl Strawberry (252) and Mike Piazza (220) in that category. Wright also is three RBI shy of 800.
New York, which went 6-5 on a season-long, 11-game road trip, is scheduled to send Chris Young to the mound Wednesday and he is coming off a solid performance at San Francisco in which he fired seven innings of one-run ball and did not walk a batter in a 9-1 victory. Young was 0-4 in five starts before lifting his 2012 mark to 3-5 in 11 starts with an ERA of 4.22.
Young, a lanky right-hander, is 0-2 in four starts at Citi Field this season and that could change given his history against the Marlins. In three career starts in this series, Young is 2-0 with a sparkling 0.47 ERA.
The Marlins improved to 3-6 on an 11-game road trip last night and shortstop Jose Reyes extended his career-high hitting streak to 25 games. The hitting streak is the longest in the majors this season and tied for the third-longest in franchise history. Luis Castillo recorded a 35-game run back in 2002, Emilio Bonifacio had a 26-game stretch last season and Kevin Millar had a hit in 25 straight games in 2002.
"I'm feeling comfortable at the plate right now," Reyes said. "I feeling good, putting a good swing on the ball. I've been more consistent. The first half, I wasn't consistent. I've been consistent there."
Reyes, a former Met, also scored a run and Carlos Lee went 1-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored to keep his hitting streak alive. Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton was activated off the disabled list prior to the game after undergoing right knee surgery in July, and was 0-for-3 with an RBI and two strikeouts.
Wade LeBlanc allowed a run in four innings for the no-decision on his 28th birthday and Carlos Zambrano picked up the win in relief, tossing 1 1/3 scoreless innings. Steve Cishek later nailed down his seventh save in the ninth.
"Any time you can spend a birthday in the majors leagues is enjoyable. It's icing on the cake that I got to pitch and we got the win," LeBlanc said.
Nathan Eovaldi will make his third start for Miami since being acquired from the Dodgers in the Hanley Ramirez trade last month. Eovaldi defeated San Diego in his Marlins' debut on July 28, then was pounded at Atlanta in last Thursday's 6-1 setback. He allowed six runs and eight hits in just two innings to fall to 2-7 with a 4.66 ERA in 12 starts with Los Angeles and Miami.
Eovaldi is 0-1 with a 5.59 ERA in two career starts against the Mets.
New York has won four of seven over Miami this season and was unbeaten in the past five matchups at home until Tuesday's setback. The Mets swept a three- game series versus the Marlins from April 24-26.