Christian Yelich continues power surge as Miami Marlins edge New York Mets

By Jerry Beach, The Sports Xchange  |  Sept. 2, 2016 at 2:01 AM
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NEW YORK -- Christian Yelich has a new spot in the lineup and a new place to play in the outfield. Most important of all, the Miami Marlins have a new month.

Yelich continued to thrive in the cleanup spot Thursday night, when he homered for the third time in as many nights and finished with three hits, three RBIs and two stolen bases as the Marlins salvaged the finale of a four-game series against the New York Mets with a 6-4 win at Citi Field.

The Marlins (68-66) ended August with five straight losses to finish the month at 8-18. Miami began August four games out of first place in the National League East and one game up in the race for the second wild card spot but finished it 11 games behind the Washington Nationals in the division and 3 1/2 games behind the second wild card, the St. Louis Cardinals.

With the win Thursday, the Marlins pulled within three games of the idle Cardinals.

"It's a new month, man," Yelich said. "August sucked for us. Hopefully September's better. Nice to get off on the right foot. Was big for us to win this last one here."

Yelich's third game in the cleanup spot -- a spot occupied by Giancarlo Stanton before he suffered a potentially season-ending groin injury on Aug. 13 -- was his best one yet.

The 24-year-old, who hadn't started at cleanup as a major leaguer prior to Tuesday, walked and stole second in the second before his RBI single in the third scored the game's first run. He singled, stole second and scored on a double by Jeff Francoeur in the fifth -- when Xavier Scruggs' RBI double brought Francoeur home -- before capping the Marlins' scoring with a three-run homer to left in the seventh.

Yelich, who grounded out in his final at-bat, went 6-for-11 with the three homers, seven RBIs and four runs scored in the last three games. He was just 4-of-29 with one homer and five RBIs in his nine games prior to Tuesday.

"I think it was just a matter of time, honestly," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "He's not going to keep struggling the way he was struggling. He was swinging at some balls he usually hits. You know that's just going to be temporary. He's too good, his swing is too good."

His defense was pretty good, albeit imperfect, on Thursday. Yelich, who started in center for only the second time this season and the third time in four major league seasons, saved at least one run in the second inning, which he ended by making a diving catch of a sinking liner by Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom with the bases loaded.

"Just had to lay out and make the catch," Yelich said. "Good thing I caught that one, because if it (gets) by me, might have been an inside-the-parker."

Right-hander Jose Urena (3-5) earned the win after allowing one run on four hits and two walks while striking out two over six innings. The Mets pulled to within 6-2 in the eighth, when their first four batters reached against Nick Wittgren and Kyle Barraclough before Barraclough got Conforto, the potential tying run, to hit into a 1-2-3 double play before striking out Yoenis Cespedes.

Fernando Rodney allowed a leadoff single to Travis d'Arnaud and a two-run homer to Asdrubal Cabrera in the ninth before retiring the final three batters.

"You don't want that game to get going -- these guys, they've been around," Mattingly said of the Mets. who won the NL pennant last season "They've been through some stuff. They're not going to roll up."

Jay Bruce homered in the sixth and had an RBI single in the eighth for the Mets (69-65), who missed a chance to move within a game of the Cardinals in the wild card race. New York has won nine of its last 12 games.

Cabrera (left knee) and Cespedes (right quad) didn't start for the Mets, who learned Wednesday that fellow middle-of-the-order hitter Neil Walker will undergo season-ending back surgery.

"That's part of the gig and that's why we've got backup players here," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Right-hander Jacob deGrom (7-8) took the loss after allowing three runs on six hits and four walks while striking out six over five innings. DeGrom was seen motioning to trainer Ray Ramirez after leaving the game but said afterward he was fine, though he has gone 0-3 while giving up 16 runs in 14 2/3 innings over his last three starts.

"I can't throw the ball where I want right now," deGrom said. "I've got to figure that out."

NOTES: The Mets promoted four players from Triple-A Las Vegas: OF Michael Conforto, IF/OF Ty Kelly C Kevin Plawecki and RHP Gabriel Ynoa. ... The Marlins promoted four players from Triple-A New Orleans: RHP Brian Ellington, OF Destin Hood, RHP Nefi Ogando and C Tomas Telis. To make room for Hood on the 40-man roster, the Marlins designated LHP Raudel Lazo for assignment. ... Marlins CF Marcell Ozuna (left wrist) did not play Thursday, a day after he was injured making a diving catch. He is day-to-day.

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