NEW YORK — The Miami Marlins lost star pitcher Jose Fernandez to a serious elbow injury five weeks into the season and star slugger Giancarlo Stanton with 2 1/2 weeks to go.
Yet by beating the New York Mets 4-3 on Sept. 17, they improved to 74-77 with 11 games remaining and have given themselves chance to avoid a sixth straight losing season.
“This team is obviously headed in the right direction under our baseball department and Mike Redmond,” team President David Samson said. “That’s all any team can hope for, is to be getting better. And this was clearly a step up this year.”
Henderson Alvarez (11-6) ended a three-start winless streak, allowing two runs and eight hits in six innings. Steve Cishek pitched his second perfect ninth of the series for his 37th save in 41 chances.
“That would be huge for us, no doubt, to get to .500,” said Redmond, the Marlins’ second-year manager.
Miami completed a trying 5-5 trip. Before the game, the team said Stanton’s season was over. The NL home run leader was hit in the face by a fastball from Milwaukee’s Mike Fiers on Sept. 11 and sustained facial fractures, concussion symptoms, dental damage, cuts that required stitches and two black eyes.
“An emotional trip for us, losing G and all that we went through,” Redmond said. “Guys are beat up. They’re banged up. They’re emotionally on tilt.”
But the Marlins took two of three from the Mets with small ball: 30 of their 35 hits in the series were singles.
“We need to finish the season strong,” second baseman Donovan Solano said. “The last two seasons were not good for us. We know now how we need to win games. So I think that we’ve done a good job.”
Wearing their bright orange alternate jerseys, the Marlins built a 3-0 lead in the first two innings against Dillon Gee (7-8) and held on to open a two-game lead over the Mets for third place in the NL East.
Gee gave up four runs and seven hits in 6 2-3 innings. He entered with a scoreless streak of 16 1-3 innings against the Marlins but threw a run-scoring wild pitch in the first and allowed Garrett Jones’ run-scoring hit on a squib that went 30 feet toward third base. Solano’s RBI single made it 3-0 in the second.
Gee stroked a single into center in the fifth, prompting teammates to wave towels and stand and applaud in the dugout. He had been 0 for 35 this year and was hitless in 41 at-bats since singling off Miami’s Tom Koehler on Sept. 15 last year,
Lucas Duda hit a two-run single, just the sixth hit for the Mets in 63 at-bats this year with the bases loaded and two outs. Wilmer Flores followed with a fly that Marcell Ozuna caught with a leap against the wall in left-center.
Christian Yelich restored a two-run lead with an RBI double off Josh Edgin in the seventh, and Curtis Granderson hit a run-scoring grounder against Chris Hatcher in the eighth.
New York (73-80) dropped nine games back for the NL’s second wild card with nine games left, on the brink of elimination. The Mets must go 8-1 to avoid a sixth straight losing season, one shy of the franchise record.
A more achievable goal would be overtaking the Marlins or perhaps Atlanta (76-76), where the Mets open a three-game series Sept. 19.
“It would be a tremendous accomplishment,” Manager Terry Collins said, “especially where we’re sitting right now with guys going down right and left around here.”
(RONALD BLUM, AP Sports Writer)