NEW YORK (AP) — A few more starts like this and Caleb Smith might start getting a lot more attention.
The 26-year-old lefty pitched neatly into the seventh inning against a Mets lineup that included newcomer Jose Bautista, leading the Miami Marlins over New York 5-1 on a damp Tuesday night.
Smith (3-5) fanned eight, and leads all major league rookies with 65 strikeouts. He’s allowed no more than three hits in five of his last six starts.
Even so, he didn’t feel in charge.
“Not really. Fastball command wasn’t really there tonight, either,” he said. “I just did a better job of putting it in the strike zone. I feel like I was more effectively wild than anything, but it worked out.”
Derek Dietrich homered and J.T. Realmuto got three hits as Miami, the lowest-scoring team in the majors, ended a three-game skid. The Mets had won four in a row.
Bautista signed with the Mets two days after being cut by Atlanta. The former home run champ was at home in Tampa, Florida, in mid-afternoon, hustled to the airport and arrived at Citi Field about a half-hour before gametime.
The 37-year-old Bautista called it “one of the wildest days” in his career.
While the Mets reworked their lineup, batting him fifth, Bautista went to loosen up. The first time he talked with manager Mickey Callaway was when he came off the field from stretching.
“I said, ‘You’re in left field,’ and he said, ‘I got it,'” Callaway said.
A six-time All-Star, Bautista lived up to his nickname of Joey Bats when he doubled his first time up. He then scored the Mets’ only run on Tomas Nido’s sacrifice fly and finished 1 for 3.
Smith gave up three hits and walked two over 6 2/3 innings. He twice fanned Bautista, and exited with a 3.83 ERA.
“It’s been a pretty simple formula for him,” manager Don Mattingly said. “Obviously, it’s not that easy. But when he’s throwing strikes, he’s been pretty effective. And the only time he’s really gotten in trouble has been when he’s kind of been all around the zone and walking people.”
Smith has permitted no more than two earned runs in five of his last six starts. Center fielder Lewis Brinson helped him, jumping into the padded wall to catch Michael Conforto’s leadoff drive in the seventh when it was still a two-run game.
Shut out by the Mets the previous night, the Marlins scored three times in the second against Zack Wheeler (2-4). Miguel Rojas hit an RBI single and an error by third baseman Jose Reyes on Smith’s sacrifice bunt led to Realmuto’s two-out, two-run single that barely trickled up the middle.
Wheeler allowed just one earned run in six innings, striking out nine without a walk.
Dietrich hit a two-run homer in the eighth.
Mets: C Devin Mesoraco (bruised left elbow) flied out as a pinch-hitter and stayed in the game. … It hasn’t been determined whether LF Yoenis Cespedes (hip flexor) will need any rehab games, Callaway said. … CF Juan Lagares (toe) will have season-ending surgery Thursday. … C Kevin Plawecki (broken hand) and RHP Hansel Robles (sprained knee) will start rehab assignments Thursday with Triple-A Las Vegas.
Marlins: RHP Dan Straily (2-0, 3.60 ERA) shut out Atlanta for seven innings in his last start.
Mets: RHP Jacob deGrom (4-0, 1.75) goes for his 50th career win. He is 4-4 in 13 starts vs. Miami.
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