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NYM@MIA: Murphy starts inning-ending double play

MIAMI -- Gone is the pluck the Mets showcased in April, winning regularly despite a sputtering offense and an inconsistent bullpen. Vanished are the creative, often unexpected, ways in which the Mets won games.

Lacking all that, the Mets are suddenly reeling. They dropped a 3-0 game to the Marlins on Tuesday night, ensuring their second consecutive series loss while pushing their record back down to .500. Though starting pitcher Bartolo Colon rebounded from the struggles that plagued him last time out in Denver, the rest of his teammates could not follow suit against Marlins starter Henderson Alvarez.

Alvarez fired a shutout, and the Mets collectively tipped their caps to the right-hander after the game. But it's not just him. The Mets have scored zero runs in 14 innings and one in their last 17. They rank 26th in baseball in home runs, 29th in slugging and 29th in OPS, all of those statistics based largely upon what they did -- or, rather, didn't do -- in April.

The only difference is that in April, the Mets came through with key hits when they needed them. In May, such opportunistic offense has been nowhere to be found.

"We're all right," manager Terry Collins said. "We've got 130 games to go. We wish we could have won a couple more games, but we've stolen a couple games we shouldn't have won. It all evens out this time of year, and we'll get it going."

Just not Tuesday. The Marlins took a lead off Colon on RBI hits from Giancarlo Stanton and Casey McGehee in the first inning, and that turned out to be enough. Colon allowed one additional run in seven innings, striking out five and noting that he "threw a good game." But the Mets never gave him even a semblance of support.

Instead, Alvarez simply dominated them, whiffing seven in his fourth career shutout. Relying on two double plays and giving up six hits, Alvarez only faced real trouble on two occasions.

In the fourth inning, Juan Lagares hit a leadoff double and reached third base with one out. But David Wright and Curtis Granderson both lined out, stranding Lagares on third.

"It's frustrating, but at the same time, you can't hang your head because you're doing what you're supposed to do," Wright said.

Two innings later, the Mets put two men in scoring position when Alvarez plunked Lagares and Daniel Murphy doubled. But the Mets already had two outs when that rally began, and Wright grounded out to end the threat.

"He definitely made pitches when he needed to make pitches," Wright said.

Wright's teammates showered Alvarez with similar compliments, lauding a pitcher who now owns twice as many shutouts as anyone else in baseball with fewer than 66 career starts. Murphy noted that after baffling the Mets on the right side of the strike zone early in the game, Alvarez reversed his style and began pounding the left side -- in to left-handers, away from righties -- late in the game. If the Mets were not off-balance already, that did the trick.

"He's still a young guy, and he's still learning how to pitch and understanding how to pitch," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "But when you see nights like this, you realize this guy has a chance to be really, really good."

The Mets know it, too, because it's cramping their style. After reaching a season-high four games over .500 on April 29, they have now lost five of six to fall back to an even record.

There is no greater-than-normal urgency for them to begin winning, considering the National League East-leading Braves are reeling and the entire division is separated by a total of 2 1/2 games. It's too early to be scoreboard watching anyway, particularly for a team that has not made the postseason since 2006.

But with one-fifth of the season gone, New York's strengths and weaknesses are clear. Colon is part of a rotation that should continue to rank among the league's best all summer long. The Mets' outfield defense is impressive. Everything else remains a work in progress, with offense the team's primary concern.

Collins insists that it will come eventually, though the Mets would prefer not to wait that long. If they can squeak out a win in Wednesday's series finale with Zack Wheeler pitching, they will head back home one game over .500.

"We came in and played the Rockies very hot," Collins said. "These guys are hot here. We're going to get hot, too."

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