MIAMI — The Mets’ next-best option to pitch the ninth inning isn’t quite Edwin Diaz.
They learned that lesson the hard way on Sunday night.
With Diaz unavailable after pitching back-to-back games, Adam Ottavino was called upon to try and give the Mets a chance in extra innings.
After two quick outs, including an unbelievable diving catch from Luis Guillorme, Ottavino hung a slider to Nick Fortes, who ripped a walkoff home run into the left-field seats as the Mets dropped their series finale to the Marlins, 3-2, at loanDepot park.
“It was inside, it was not even a strike. I tried to kind of slide-step there after the first slider and I got ahead of my hand,” Ottavino said. “I’ve done it before. I kind of knew what happened out of the hand and hoped he didn’t swing, but not the case.”
Diaz was coming off back-to-back saves on Friday and Saturday, throwing a combined 30 pitches across the two days. Drew Smith was seemingly unavailable after throwing 29 pitches on Friday.
Those two workloads forced Showalter to use Ottavino in the high-leverage situation. The veteran righty had been dialed in entering the outing, giving up one run in his previous 19 games with 18 strikeouts and a 0.74 WHIP.
But on Sunday, one wayward pitch put a mark on that strong run.
“I don’t want to lose the game for the team, but personally, it’s nothing,” Ottavino said. “It’s a blip, a bump in the road. I’m not going to think about it. I’m not going to lose sleep over it. Individually, it just sucks to lose for the team.”
After scoring the opening two runs as part of a three-hit third inning, the Mets bats went cold.
In the top of the third inning, Pete Alonso was able to fend off an inside fastball to drop in a bloop RBI double down the right-field line to score Starling Marte and give the Mets a brief 2-1 lead.
Alonso’s hit was the Mets’ fifth and final of the game. The Mets went hitless and could only muster two walks across the final 6⅔ innings against starter Daniel Castano, Steven Okert and Tanner Scott, who earned the win.
After being hit by a pitch, Davis reached third in the ninth, but James McCann fanned on a slider with a full count to end the threat. The Mets straned four runners in scoring position in the loss.
“I don’t think we were getting frustrated. We’re in the game,” said Mark Canha, who was one of four Mets hitters to go 0-for-4. “We’re leading, we’re tied in that game for the entire game. There’s optimism that we’re eventually going to get something going and it just never did. It was just one of those days.”
The bottom of the Mets lineup, including Eduardo Escobar, Luis Guillorme and McCann, was 0-for-12 on the day.
The Mets left a trio of runners in the first two innings following leadoff doubles by Brandon Nimmo and J.D. Davis with a chance to jump on Castano early.
They took advantage of their opportunities in the top of the third inning.
Nimmo tied the game with his fifth home run of the season in the top of the third. He was the Mets’ hottest hitter in the series, collecting six hits in 13 at-bats with two runs and two RBI.
But Castano settled in and worked around five hits and four walks in seven innings.
“He’s a different kind of pitcher that you don’t face every day,” Canha said. “He’s relying on you swinging over the ball which you don’t get that type of guy too much nowadays. You have to really alter your approach and alter your game plan.”
David Peterson dodged some solid contact to finish with a season high in pitches, innings and strikeouts. Peterson used 104 pitches to go seven innings while striking out eight. He gave up two earned runs on four hits.
The Marlins got their first lead of the series in the first inning as Jon Berti knocked a leadoff double and then came across to score on a sacrifice fly from Garrett Cooper.
Peterson struck out five straight batters across the first and third innings before giving up a solo home run on a hanging slider to Miguel Rojas.
After the home run, Peterson only allowed one hit — a double to Erik Gonzalez — across his final 14 batters.
“I think it was just getting ahead of guys and being able to attack the zone, get contact early in at-bats and get some quick ground balls which helped the pitch count,” Peterson said. “I felt like I had a good feel for every pitch.”
Peterson did not walk a batter over the course of the outing. He entered the start averaging 2.4 free passes per appearance.
Six of his eight strikeouts came on his slider, which he deployed 33 percent of the time.
“It felt like I had a good feel of it,” Peterson said. “I could throw it where I wanted to, put it in spots that I could get them to swing over it. I felt like I did a good job with a combination of fastballs and changeups and sliders. It felt like I was able to keep them off-balance to be able to get those strikeouts.”
Jeff McNeil on the way
Throughout the series, Jeff McNeil’s helmet and batting gloves came on in the dugout earlier and earlier.
Buck Showalter still took the cautious approach with McNeil, choosing to keep him out of the starting lineup on the turf at loanDepot park. McNeil was seen running sprints in the outfield before Sunday’s game, and Showalter expects him to be back in the lineup on Tuesday.
“I’m confident he’ll be a player on Tuesday,” Showalter said.
McNeil’s absence has been felt for the Mets offense, which scored 17 runs in five games (3.4 per game) with him out of the lineup. That is well below their 4.9 run average.
McNeil leads the Mets with a .327 batting average and .386 on-base percentage, to go along with 33 runs and 33 RBI.
Andrew Tredinnick is the Mets beat writer for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to all Mets analysis, news, trades and more, please subscribe today and download our app.
Email: [email protected] Twitter: @andrew_tred