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Mets bullpen has rare misstep in loss to Marlins

Rafael Montero of the New York Mets looks

Rafael Montero of the New York Mets looks on during a game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on April 28, 2015 in Miami. Credit: Getty Images / Mike Ehrmann

MIAMI - From the pitcher's mound, to the top step of the dugout, there was plenty of blame to be shared in the Mets' 4-3 loss to the Marlins Tuesday night.

Perhaps, things would have unfolded differently if reliever Carlos Torres had thrown strikes, or if Ruben Tejada had gotten a bunt down, or if manager Terry Collins had a quicker hook for starter Rafael Montero.

It's all unknowable now, of course.

"I was just trying to be too precise with it," said Torres, shortly after his command issues in the eighth inning led to the Marlins scoring the go-ahead run.

The Mets trailed 3-0, then rallied to tie it on Juan Lagares' clutch three-run double in the seventh. But with Torres on the mound, they faltered in the eighth.

Injuries have ravaged the bullpen, which had not missed a beat. Mets' relievers had pushed their scoreless streak to 17 1/3 innings dating to April 19.

But Torres issued a pair of walks, setting up Michael Morse to knock in the go-ahead run with a one-out single to center. With that, the Mets (15-6) were denied in their bid for their ninth comeback win of the season.

"We don't walk guys and that hurt us, too," Collins said.

Lagares delivered a game-tying hit, lashing a 410-foot double to clear the bases in the seventh. The hit took Montero off the hook after he allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings.

But thanks to a blend of poor execution -- and perhaps poor decision making -- the Mets missed a chance to go ahead in the eighth. The suddenly-surging Daniel Murphy had a leadoff double for his third hit. Tejada stepped to the plate with a choice given to him by Collins -- swing away or bunt.

With Murphy already in scoring position, Tejada chose the latter, bunting the ball back to the mound. Murphy was nabbed at third and the Mets' last chance at a rally was snuffed out. Still, the Mets could take something encouraging out of the loss.

Montero, 24, had baffled the Mets by abandoning his secondary pitches in his first stint as a reliever. He had been sent to the minors with orders to incorporate more of his repertoire.

The message sunk in. Against the Marlins, Montero sprinkled in his changeup and slider as a complement to a fastball he commanded with precision.

The righthander retired the first nine batters he faced and cruised until a three-run sixth inning, when Giancarlo Stanton and J.T. Realmuto delivered run-scoring hits, all while Montero's velocity dipped.

Montero was also charged for a run when reliever Buddy Carlyle bounced a wild pitch past catcher Anthony Recker to score Marcell Ozuna from third.

Nevertheless, Collins said he was pleased with the pitcher's performance. As was Montero, who said through a translator that he was "really happy" with the outing.

As expected, Montero was optioned back down to Triple-A Las Vegas after the game. The Mets recalled 24-year-old lefthander Jack Leathersich, the intriguing prospect with spotty command and a blazing fastball.

For now, Montero will continue to pitch as a starter and wait for his next opening. With the Mets planning to use another spot starter -- part of their plan to give extra rest to Matt Harvey and the rotation -- another opportunity should arise. Said Montero: "For any moment, I'm just trying to be ready."

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