NEW YORK -- At a time Giancarlo Stanton is heating up, the Marlins' starting pitching has remained suspect. Stanton belted two home runs, but lefty Brad Hand yielded a pair of homers the Marlins were unable to overcome.
Lucas Duda delivered the decisive shot, connecting on a two-out, two-run homer in the sixth inning as the Mets rallied for a 4-3 win on Friday night at Citi Field.
"Really, the difference was they got the three-run homer and the two homers from Stanton were solo shots," Miami manager Mike Redmond said. "That ended up being the difference. The big home run was a bigger number."
The Marlins have lost seven of their last nine, and both of the wins came in games Jose Fernandez started. Now that Fernandez has been shut down for the season, the club is looking for some of their young prospects to step up.
Hand is getting a chance. The lefty made his first start for Miami this season. He held a one-run lead with two outs in the sixth before Duda did his game-changing damage. Hand worked 5 2/3 innings, giving up four runs on five hits and two walks with four strikeouts.
For the most part, Hand was effective. But his night was foiled by one hanging curveball.
"I thought he did a great job," Redmond said. "He really just made that one bad pitch to Duda. He left the ball up on the three-run homer. I thought he moved the ball around well, threw strikes and commanded the strike zone real well. I thought it was a great effort."
Andrew Brown also homered for New York.
"I was feeling pretty good -- keeping the ball down, throwing strikes, and getting ahead," Hand said. "I didn't finish one pitch. I left the ball up to Duda, and it cost us the game."
The Marlins managed three runs off Jon Niese, who exited after striking out seven in 6 1/3 innings.
The Marlins collected seven hits, but the two biggest were from Stanton, who enjoyed his ninth career multi-home run game, and third of the season, with the previous one coming on June 17 at Arizona. The slugger now has four homers in his last six games, and 22 on the season.
It's been a disappointing overall season for Stanton, who is batting .256 with 52 RBIs in 100 games. Despite his struggles, and lost time due to injuries, the 23-year-old says it is very important to finish on a high.
"It really doesn't matter what I do to finish the season," Stanton said. "I will never get back how terrible I've been. But to turn it completely around is something I need to do, something I better do."
The Marlins had additional chances, but they were hurt by an inability to execute sacrifice bunts in the fifth and eighth innings.
Hand had a chance to help his cause in the fifth. But with runners on the corners, he bunted into an inning-ending, 1-6-4 double play.
In the eighth, Adeiny Hechavarria ended up striking out, with Chris Coghlan, on first after he was unable to drop a sacrifice bunt.
"We've struggled bunting, that's for sure," Redmond said. "That's definitely an area we need to get better at."
Hand was initially slated to start in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader, but he was pushed up a day due to the reshuffling of the rotation because of Nathan Eovaldi's tight back.
The teams exchanged solo home runs in the second inning. Stanton opened the scoring with his laser shot to left-center to lead off the inning. But Miami's edge was short lived, as Brown belted a 1-1 changeup to left in the bottom of the inning to tie the game.
Back-to-back doubles by Ed Lucas and Donovan Solano in the fifth put the Marlins in front, 2-1. But the momentum then shifted to the Mets, who claimed a 4-2 lead in the sixth on Duda's three-run blast.
"It's just a situation where you have to make a pitch," Hand said. "You have to get out of that inning. I was trying to go curveball away, down-and-away from him. I just left it up a bit."
Eric Young Jr. doubled to open the inning, but Hand was able to collect a couple of outs. Brown drew a walk, and on a 2-2 pitch, Duda lifted a drive to right field. Stanton gave it a run and made a leaping attempt, but the ball landed into the netting beyond the wall.
"I think it's certainly something Lucas has got to feel good about right now," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He's a big, strong guy. Everybody expects him to hit homers. I just expect him to drive runs in. I think that swing tonight might really get him started in the last couple weeks. It was a big swing for us. It was a big game for us to win."
Miami chipped back to 4-3 in the seventh on Stanton's second shot, a liner to left.
"It was a little back-and-forth type deal," Stanton said. "But we were right there until the end of the game."