Maybe a night in second place was the wake-up call the Mets needed.
Or maybe it was just a trip to face the lowly Marlins in Miami that got Buck Showalter’s club back on track.
After waking up on Saturday morning looking up at the red-hot Atlanta Braves in the NL East for the first time all season, the Mets (89-52) used back-to-back dominant performances to finish off this road trip back atop the division.
Taijuan Walker (11-4) followed up Carlos Carrasco’s six-inning gem from Saturday with seven strong innings of his own and the Mets offense continued to crush Marlins pitching in a 9-3 matinee win.
In Saturday’s 11-3 romp, the big blast was Mark Canha’s first career grand slam as part of an eight-run fourth inning. All told, five players recorded multiple hits on Saturday. The bats were still hot on Sunday as Brandon Nimmo got things started with a three-run homer to right center to give the Amazin’s a quick 3-0 lead in the second inning.
“Coming away with a series win, we’ve been pretty good at that most of the year,” Nimmo said. “It’s important to us.”
The Mets are 32-9-3 in 44 series this season.
Nimmo could have had an even bigger day but he had a triple pulled off the board after his game-opening drive to left-center rolled to the warning track. The umps ruled the ball got temporarily lodged under the fence and Nimmo ended up with a ground-rule double.
The Mets unsuccessfully appealed the ruling and even saw Max Scherzer — currently on the IL — get ejected by second base umpire Chad Fairchild.
“There’s no room out there for the ball to lodge,” Showalter said. “It was an important 90 feet. I’m glad it didn’t end up hurting us.”
Tomas Nido plated a pair of runs in the fifth on a double to left to stretch the lead to 7-1. He then added his first homer of the season in the ninth to cap the offensive fireworks.
Eduardo Escobar also kept up his torrid home run pace as he hit his fifth homer in his last nine games, also with a ninth-inning blast.
That was more than enough offense for Walker as he struck out 10 and allowed just one run on five hits despite dealing with a blister.
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“It was there, that’s why I didn’t throw too many splitters,” Walker said of his blister concern. “I could feel it started to creep up a little bit. I really worked the fastball a lot. It was coming out of my hand good.”
Marlins starter Jesus Luzardo lasted just 3 1/3 innings as the lefty gave up five runs, six hits, walked three and struck out three.
With Sunday’s win, the Mets finished 7-2 against the Marlins on the road this season and went 4-2 on this trip through Pittsburgh and Miami.
The Braves will look to pull back within a half game with a win against the Mariners later Sunday afternoon.
Showalter’s club now returns to Citi Field to start a seven-game homestand against the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates, two terrible teams just playing out the string. Chris Bassitt (13-7) will start the opener of the three-game series against the Cubs on Monday.
Mark Vientos went 0-for-5 in his major league debut for the Mets. The 22-year-old Vientos, who had 24 home runs at Triple-A Syracuse this season, nearly had a memorable first hit when his drive was caught in front of the right-field wall to end the third.
– With News Wire Services