New York Mets' Lucas Duda. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
MIAMI -- Pinch hitter Eric Campbell didn't strike the ball very hard or drive it particularly far -- but, in this case, that was a good thing for his New York Mets.
Campbell drove in the winning run in a four-run eighth inning, leading the surging Mets to their fifth consecutive win, a 5-1 victory over the Miami Marlins on Tuesday night at Marlins Park.
Campbell, hitting just .175 entering the at-bat, lofted a soft single over the head of the shortstop, driving in first baseman Lucas Duda from second base.
"I thought I hit it either well enough or not well enough to where it would drop in there," said Campbell, who is 3-for-3 in his last three pinch-hitting attempts. "I've always felt comfortable pinch-hitting because I like facing relievers and guys who throw harder.
"That's my job now, coming off the bench and getting big hits. It's something I take pride in."
After Campbell's hit, center fielder Juan Lagares followed with a two-run triple. Right fielder Curtis Granderson, who struck out in his first three at-bats -- all against left-handers -- capped the rally with a run-scoring double. All of the Mets' scoring in the inning happened against lefty reliever Mike Dunn (1-5).
Mets manager Terry Collins said it was a "huge" hit for Lagares.
"I know he's down a bit because he's not playing (as much as usual)," Collins said of Lagares, whose playing time has been taken up, to a large extent, by new acquisition Yoenes Cespedes. "We all know there is one way to get back in the lineup, and that's to do what he did tonight."
The first-place Mets, who haven't led the National League East this late in a season since 2008, improved to 57-50. They lead second-place Washington by one game.
Miami (43-64) lost for the ninth time in 11 games.
The win went to left-hander Jonathon Niese (6-9), who pitched his 10th quality start in his past 11 outings. He allowed four hits, one walk and one run in seven innings, striking out six and lowering his ERA to 3.51.
Mets starters have allowed two runs or fewer in nine of the past 10 games.
Marlins starter Brad Hand, a left-hander who came out of the bullpen to make the start, was not scored on, yet he only lasted four innings. He left the game with a 1-0 lead, but the problem was his high pitch count (84). That was too many for a pitcher who had not started a game since June 8.
"It took me a while to get comfortable again," said Hand, who allowed five hits and one walk, stranding the bases loaded in the first inning. "I threw like 41 pitches through the first four outs. That's never good when you have a short pitch count. I was able to battle and get through four.
"I felt like I could have gone out for another (inning) as well. (But) because I haven't thrown more than 20-something pitches in two months, I think 85 was the number, and I threw 84."
Marlins manager Dan Jennings said he was "very pleased" by Hand's effort, considering he hadn't started in nearly two months.
Miami opened the scoring in the third. Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria walked, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Hand and scored on second baseman Dee Gordon's single off the glove of diving Mets second baseman Wilmer Flores.
The Mets tied the score 1-1 in the sixth. Flores pulled a two-out double off the wall in left and scored on an opposite-field single by shortstop Ruben Tejada. Miami's Cole Gillespie gathered Tejada's hit in shallow right field and fired home, but Flores did a good job of avoiding the tag, touching the plate with his left hand.
"I was telling him where to slide," said Niese, who was on deck. "He better have scored."
NOTES: Mets CF Juan Lagares, a Gold Glove winner last year but on the bench lately due to poor offensive production, made just his third start since July 24. ... New York LHP Steven Matz (partially torn left lat muscle) threw a ball Monday for the first time since getting hurt July 6. Matz, 2-0 with a 1.32 ERA in two starts, is expected back early next month. ... Mets OF Michael Cuddyer (knee) is running and could be activated this weekend at Tampa Bay. ... Mets 3B David Wright (back) could begin playing rehab games later this week. ... Marlins RHP Tom Koehler is 0-2 with a 14.73 ERA against the Mets this year. He is 8-6 with a 2.26 ERA against the rest of the majors.