MIAMI -- Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, manager Mickey Callaway says, of how deep the Mets fall down the standings or how short they fall of their goals, "I don't think you ever shift your focus from trying to win." Even as the Mets stuttered through the worst June in franchise history, their record-breaking start to the season long since faded, that much never wavered.
So when the Mets closed out their least successful first half in a quarter century on Sunday, they at least took solace in the fact that they did so with a win. Steven Matz pitched effectively into the sixth inning at Marlins Park, Asdrubal Cabrera matched last year's season total with his 14th home run and the Mets tacked on offense late in a 5-2 win over Miami, avoiding a series sweep.
After briefly falling to the National League's worst record, the Mets flew north a game ahead of the Marlins in the NL East standings. That took some of the sting out of reaching the season's halfway point with a 33-48 record -- the Mets' worst first half since 1993, and their worst record through 81 games since the '95 strike-shortened campaign.
"I think we're all disappointed where we're at right now. We all had higher expectations for ourselves," Matz said. "But we have a second half here. We got a win today. We're just going to keep pushing, keep fighting."
The Mets never trailed in Sunday's game, however, taking a lead on Kevin Plawecki's RBI double in the second inning and increasing it via Cabrera's solo homer off Dan Straily in the third. Cabrera needed 208 fewer appearances to reach 14 homers than he did last season.
All the while, Matz skirted his way around trouble -- most notably three Mets errors. The extra outs forced Matz to throw 109 pitches in 5 1/3 innings, but the left-hander allowed just one unearned run to score. The Mets then took advantage of Miami's defensive issues in the eighth, scoring runs on a Lewis Brinson misplay in center and a J.T. Realmuto throwing error.
It was enough for the Mets to spend their postgame hours talking about how, despite their fourth-place record and 14 1/2-game hole in the NL East, they still have some fight left in them.
"Today, to get a win is great," outfielder Brandon Nimmo said. "The team right now -- good spirits in the clubhouse. That's good. We've had some tough losses. We're trying to turn it around, create a different chemistry, just kind of forget what we've done and create a new path going forward."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Taking advantage: After committing three errors of their own, the Mets were keen to capitalize on a pair of Marlins mistakes in the eighth. With two outs and a man on first, Todd Frazier hit a fly ball to the right-center field gap, where Brinson raced over but could not glove it. Statcast™ estimated his catch probability at 84 percent.
Frazier moved to third on Brinson's throw home, then scored when Realmuto's pickoff attempt sailed into left field for an error.
Entering the weekend, shortstop Amed Rosario had eight walks in 258 plate appearances. He drew six free passes -- three of them intentional -- in 11 plate appearances in Miami.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
After Matz exited, Seth Lugo delivered 1 2/3 scoreless innings of relief, thanks in part to teammate Michael Conforto. Ranging to his right, Conforto made a diving grab of JT Riddle's line drive to open the seventh. Statcast™ estimated he had a 57-percent catch probability on the play.
The Mets recently moved Conforto to left field and shifted Nimmo to center, after using the reverse alignment for much of the season.
"Great play," Callaway said. "That's one of the reasons we wanted him over there, his comfort level over there."
HE SAID IT
"I've been in a slump, but I'm out of it now." -- Matz, laughing about his RBI single in the fourth. Matz's .111 average is his lowest in four big league seasons
Jose Bautista returns to his decade-long home when the Mets travel to Toronto to begin a two-game series Tuesday against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. In addition to Bautista, who played in Canada from 2008-17, Mets infielder Jose Reyes spent time there from 2013-15, and executive J.P. Ricciardi was Toronto's general manager from 2001-09. Zack Wheeler will start the 7:07 p.m. ET opener opposite right-hander Marco Estrada.