MIAMI - Bartolo Colon bounced back from one of his worst outings of the season, delivering a quality start Tuesday night against an opponent that has been nearly unbeatable on their home field.

But the effort was wasted against the Marlins, who sent the Mets to a 3-0 defeat behind a six-hit shutout by starter Henderson Alvarez.

The Mets were blanked for the third time this season and lost for the fifth time in their last six games. They must dodge a series sweep Wednesday to avoid falling below .500 for the first time since April 19.

"We couldn't mount anything," manager Terry Collins said.

Alvarez does his best work when he can get opponents to beat his heavy sinker into the ground, and the Mets obliged with 11 ground-ball outs. In his 111-pitch masterpiece, Alvarez did not walk a batter and struck out seven.

Daniel Murphy finished 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles. But David Wright, Curtis Granderson and Chris Young -- the middle of the Mets' order -- finished a combined 1-for-11 as Alvarez exerted his will.

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Said Murphy: "It's no fun."

The Marlins improved to a major league-best 16-5 at their home park, which is how they have stayed competitive in the National League East. Until the Phillies lost Tuesday night, it was the only division in baseball with all five teams at .500 or better.

"It's going to be a catfight as we get down into the summer," Collins said. "Each and every night you play your division, it's going to be a tough game."

Last night proved no exception.

Colon (2-5, 5.36) allowed seven runs in his previous start against the Rockies last Thursday, the second time this season that the veteran had been hit around. However, he admitted feeling some relief leaving Denver's thin air for what he called a better "environment" in Miami.

After allowing the Marlins to jump out to a 2-0 lead in the first, Colon settled down to allow just three runs in seven innings.

"After that, I did a good job," Colon said through a translator. "I thought I threw a good game."

In the first, slugger Giancarlo Stanton sent a shot off the centerfield fence for a double, scoring Derek Dietrich, who reached on a one-out single. Cleanup hitter Casey McGehee lined a run-scoring single past the second baseman Murphy to make it 2-0.

Colon adjusted, working in more sliders and change-ups, and found some success. He limited the damage to one more run in the fifth, when McGehee made it 3-0 on his second run-scoring single.

The Mets' offense, however, never got on track.

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Juan Lagares doubled to start the fourth, then reached third on Murphy's groundout. But Wright had nothing to show for a pair of lineouts that stranded Lagares at third.

With two down it the sixth, the top of the lineup tried to jump-start another rally. Lagares reached when he was plunked on the elbow. Murphy sliced a double just inside the leftfield line, giving the Mets runners on second and third.

But Alvarez (2-2, 2.62) was too locked in, dialing up another ground ball to retire Wright and keep the Mets off the scoreboard.

"It's frustrating," said Wright, who stranded four runners. "But at the same time, you can't hang your head because you're doing what you're supposed to do. You just need to find some holes."