MIAMI -- A year ago, the Marlins finished last in the Majors in runs scored. Now, they're among the National League leaders in that category.
The boost in run support has further energized their starting pitchers.
"We recognize that if we keep games close, there is a good chance that they'll come back and seize the opportunity to win the ballgame," right-hander Tom Koehler said. "It's a little less taxing on us mentally."
Koehler will face the Mets for the second time this season looking to deliver a sweep in Wednesday afternoon's series finale, after giving up four runs in five innings in an April 27 loss at Citi Field. He rebounded with a strong performance last time out against the Dodgers, throwing seven shutout innings in a win at Marlins Park.
"Winning is always fun," Koehler said. "To be able to win these games speaks volumes about the high character of the guys in the clubhouse."
The Mets counter with Zack Wheeler, who is looking to bounce back from a rough start against the Rockies in which he allowed seven runs (six earned) over just four innings at Coors Field.
Of course, the Marlins are not the only NL East club scoring and winning within their division. Entering Tuesday's play, the NL East was the only Major League division with all five teams boasting .500 records or better, making things dicier than usual for the Marlins, Mets, Braves, Phillies and Nationals to navigate. Those five teams are separated by a total of 2 1/2 games in the standings.
"Everybody's got to go through it, but this division's going to be tough," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Each team's got some weapons."
For the Mets, at least, an escape from divisional play is looming. After Wednesday's series finale against the Marlins and a three-game series this weekend against the Phillies, the Mets will play 28 of their next 36 games outside of the NL East. The Marlins have less of a reprieve, facing the Phillies, Nationals and Braves later this month.
Each of those series presents a unique challenge.
"I know the Nationals have got some injury issues," Collins said. "The Phillies for years didn't have [Chase] Utley and [Ryan] Howard in their lineup for a while. But everybody's got their guys [now], so it's going to be a catfight as we get down into the summer. Each and every night you play in your division is going to be a tough game."
Mets: Offense sputtering
It's been a rough offensive week for the Mets, who have scored zero runs in their last 14 innings and one in their last 17. Even before Henderson Alvarez shut them out in Tuesday's 3-0 loss to the Marlins, the Mets ranked 29th in baseball in slugging and OPS.
The problems run up and down the lineup. While middle-of-the-order sluggers David Wright and Curtis Granderson have yet to approach their career norms at the plate, bottom-third hitters Travis d'Arnaud and Ruben Tejada have struggled to contribute anything offensively at all.
"All you can do is have good at-bats," Wright said. "Once it leaves the bat, you have no control over it."
Marlins: When to bunt (or not) in front of Stanton
It's a topic manager Mike Redmond will wrestle with from time to time over the course of the season -- when to bunt in front of Giancarlo Stanton.
On Monday night, Redmond opted to have Ed Lucas sacrifice bunt in the ninth inning, knowing the Mets would follow up by intentionally walking Stanton. Lucas got the bunt down, moving Christian Yelich into scoring position, and sure enough the Mets walked Stanton. The move ultimately panned out because Casey McGehee delivered a walk-off single.
"It's not to say I'm going to do that every single time," Redmond said. "I may not. But I just felt like the way that game was going, to get that guy to second base and give ourselves a couple of chances, I thought we'd win it and it worked out."
Redmond added that there may come times when he allows the batter in front of Stanton to hit away, and not automatically take the bat out of Stanton's hands.
• Alvarez owns the lowest home-run-to-fly-ball ratio of any Major League starter (minimum 500 batters faced) since the start of last season. The right-hander has given up a total of five home runs over that stretch.
• Mets outfielder Juan Lagares has a hit in 17 of the 19 games he's played this season. Lagares leads the team with a .333 average.
• Stanton (38) and McGehee (23) have the most total RBIs (61) of any pair of teammates in the Majors. Stanton leads the Majors in RBIs.