Mets' Starling Marte celebrates in the dugout after hitting a...

Mets' Starling Marte celebrates in the dugout after hitting a home run during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Saturday, April 20, 2024.  Credit: AP/Ashley Landis

LOS ANGELES — Several weeks into this season and several years into their Steve Cohen era, a Mets theme has emerged — and re-emerged: They play their best baseball when Starling Marte is on the field, healthy and batting second.

He served as the catalyst again Saturday in an eventful 6-4 win over the Dodgers, going 2-for-5 with a three-run home run that put the Mets on top for good, four RBIs total, two runs scored and a stolen base.

The score was tied in the top of the sixth when Marte stepped up with two runners on base and one out. He unloaded on Ryan Brasier’s second pitch, a slider over the heart of the plate, crushing it an estimated 432 feet to straightaway centerfield.

That lifted the Mets to a sixth consecutive win and 12th in 15 games. They also have won five consecutive series and have a chance to sweep the Dodgers — a popular preseason pick for the World Series — on Sunday.

Marte is batting .282 with a .789 OPS. In the 10 games since manager Carlos Mendoza slotted him into the No. 2 hole, where he excelled for the 2022 Mets, Marte has 10 RBIs and the Mets are 8-2.

“He’s a game-changer,” Brandon Nimmo said. “When he’s healthy, he’s absolutely unbelievable. It’s fun to watch. I’m just so happy that he’s healthy and they got the core [muscles] thing figured out because now we all get to enjoy watching Starling be Starling.”

Mendoza said: “We all know that when he’s healthy, he’s a really good player. He’s been doing it for a long time, and here he is having success, having quality at-bats. The biggest thing is not only is he healthy and feeling good, but he’s having fun.”


The most fun piece of Saturday for Marte, according to Marte: manufacturing a run in the eighth inning. He reached on Mookie Betts’ throwing error, as Marte’s speed perhaps impacted the defensively iffy converted outfielder. Then Marte stole second and scored on Francisco Lindor’s single.

“That was the best part,” he said.

Marte’s sparkplug dynamic wasn’t the only hint of 2022 in this one. Other familiar elements: Edwin Diaz coming through in a big spot (striking out Teoscar Hernandez and Max Muncy with the bases loaded in the eighth), important contributions from unheralded players (Reed Garrett’s first career save and Joey Wendle’s two hits and one run) and an intangible sense that, no matter what it looks like on paper, things would just break the Mets’ way.

Jose Butto lasted into the fifth inning despite an extremely high early pitch count.

Mendoza initially considered asking Diaz for a five-out save, which would have been his first time this season going more than an inning. But that became impossible, in Mendoza’s view, once Diaz needed 20 pitches to get two outs to finish the eighth.

Diaz walked Shohei Ohtani and Freddie Freeman to load the bases with one out, putting the potential go-ahead run at first.

“I still like our chances,” Mendoza said, explaining that he went to his closer an inning early because “the game was there. With their best hitters coming up, I wasn’t going to wait till the ninth, because who knows what was going to happen? I went with our best guy against their best guy.”

Diaz responded by striking out the next two batters.

“Those are the moments that can really define a season,” Nimmo said.

For the impromptu save chance, the manager turned to Garrett, who struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth.

The numbers this month for Garrett, randomly dominant and a sudden member of the circle of trust: zero earned runs and 21 strikeouts in 10  2⁄3 innings.

“He’s doing amazing,” Diaz said.

The Dodgers’ top-third trio of Betts, Ohtani and Freeman had a combined four hits and eight walks but only two runs.

Butto (4 1⁄3 innings, two runs) and Dodgers righthander Gavin Stone (3 1⁄3 innings, two runs) were similarly inefficient, each walking five batters — with all of Butto’s coming in the first two innings.

That set up a battle of the bullpens. The Mets won that, and the game, by winning practically every big moment along the way.

“This was really, truly, from the top down, a team win,” Nimmo said. “Everybody had to be used.”


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