The Marlins' Nick Fortes hits a walk-off solo home run...

The Marlins' Nick Fortes hits a walk-off solo home run in the ninth against the Mets on Sunday in Miami. Credit: AP/Lynne Sladky

MIAMI — The Mets’ 3-2 loss to the Marlins on Sunday ended with Nick Fortes’ home run against Adam Ottavino in the bottom of the ninth. But the game was lost over the course of the afternoon, swing by swing, at-bat by at-bat, squandered opportunity after squandered opportunity.

Uncharacteristically terrible with runners in scoring position, the Mets went 1-for-13 in those spots — including blowing a man-on-second, nobody-out chance in the top of the ninth with the score tied. They had entered the day with a majors-leading .281 RISP average.

They had Miami lefthander Daniel Castano on the ropes early, picking up five extra-base hits in the first three innings, but mostly failed to do anything else. They didn’t have a hit from the fourth inning on. That meant a missed chance for the Mets (47-27) to sweep the Marlins (33-38).

“We had a chance to get something going and not let him get his feet on the ground,” manager Buck Showalter said.

Mark Canha, who went 0-for-4 with four runners left on base, said: “He’s a different kind of pitcher that you don’t face every day. He’s reliant on you swinging over the ball. You don’t get that type of guy too much nowadays, so you have to really alter your approach and alter your game plan. It’s not a typical game plan, so maybe that had something to do with it.”

It didn’t help that Jeff McNeil sat out a fifth game in a row with a tight right hamstring, helping to turn the bottom of the lineup into a black hole.

In the ninth inning, when J.D. Davis walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch, the Marlins’ Tanner Scott retired the next three batters. Eduardo Escobar (.663 OPS) struck out swinging. Luis Guillorme (0-for-12 in the series) grounded out. James McCann (.516 OPS) struck out swinging.

 

“[McNeil’s absence] would be a very convenient excuse, but I don’t think that’s the case where we’re concerned,” Showalter said. “You certainly have some merit to bring that up, because he’s a really good player that we’ve been without.”

So by the time Ottavino entered, the score remained tied.

He retired the first two batters on four pitches and got ahead of Fortes, a rookie catcher, with a first-pitch strike. But Fortes got hold of a second slider and hooked it beyond the rightfield wall. “I’m not worried about that guy,” Ottavino said. “He hit a homer. Good for him, you know what I mean? But I don’t spend too much time on a guy like that.”

Ottavino had allowed only one run in his previous seven weeks. His ERA is 2.86.

“I don’t want to lose the game for the team, but personally it’s nothing,” he said. “It’s a blip. A bump in the road. I’m not going to think about it. I’m not going to lose sleep over it individually. It just sucks to lose for the team, basically.”

Lefthanders David Peterson and Castano engaged in an unlikely pitchers’ duel, each allowing two runs in seven innings.

For Peterson, still pitching on the precipice of fatherhood, it was his longest start in more than a year — and arguably his best start of the season. He struck out eight (including five in a row) and walked none, both his best totals in any outing in 2022. “[The walks have] been something that we’ve been trying to clean up the last couple of weeks,” he said. “It was good to get out there and not give up any free bases and be able to attack those guys and get outs.”

But the Mets couldn’t back him up. “I don’t think we were getting frustrated. We’re in the game. We’re leading, we’re tied in that game for the entire game,” Canha said. “So there’s optimism that we’re eventually going to get something going. It just never did. It was one of those days.”