MIAMI -- José Fernández's presence was everywhere on Monday night, and collectively, the Marlins fed off the energy. Dee Gordon set the tone, honoring his friend and teammate by taking a pitch in the right-handed batter's box before turning around to his natural left-handed side and hitting a tearful leadoff homer that tugged at the heartstrings of everyone at Marlins Park.
Gordon had four hits and Justin Bour collected three, helping the Marlins break open a big lead and hold off the Mets, 7-3, on a night they paid tribute to Fernandez, whose death on Sunday morning in a boating accident rocked the sports world.
:: Jose Fernandez: 1992-2016 ::
Following the win, the Marlins' players and coaches circled the pitcher's mound in a display of unity, standing shoulder to shoulder while Giancarlo Stanton delivered a speech and the crowd chanted "Jo-se! Jo-se!" The players then removed their caps, leaving them on the mound while many Mets remained in the dugout, watching in silence.
"I'm just proud of our guys, just the way they hung together," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "It was not scripted. No one tells you how to handle it. There's nothing that tells you how to handle it. They just stuck together and went out and played. I think they really wanted to honor Jose the way he played and how he went about things -- just that joy that he had when he played, that confidence and that energy. I really think that was the focus of these guys, honoring him."
• Rogers: On night heavy with grief, Gordon produces magic
On a night when Fernandez was expected to start, the Marlins used a team effort to improve their record to 78-78, while the Mets, who hold the top National League Wild Card spot, had their lead over the idle Giants shrink to a half-game. Miami, meanwhile, gained ground, but still has an elimination number of two.
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"Most definitely the most difficult game I ever played in," Gordon said. "I just kept looking over and for [Fernandez's] name. How does he not show up here today? Every time I see his number, his name, I keep hearing his voice. Honestly, selfishly, I wanted him to say, 'I got y'all.' I keep waiting on that moment."
• Gordon pays tribute by batting from right side, then hitting remarkable homer
With all of their players wearing No. 16 Fernandez jerseys, the Marlins clearly had their ace on their minds. Reliever David Phelps, who worked a clean seventh inning, slumped behind the mound and touched the painted No. 16 before heading to the Marlins' dugout. After Gordon lifted a flyout to right to end the seventh inning, he received a warm hug from Mets left fielder Yoenis Céspedes, a native of Cuba, like Fernandez.
"I've had nothing but hard feelings, strong feelings, for all those guys across the diamond since yesterday, since I heard the news," Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud said. "I really couldn't imagine what it would be like to lose any one of my brothers here in the dugout. It was a really hard game today to even step on the diamond and see all of them."
The Mets, after falling behind by seven runs, got on the board in the fifth on Asdrúbal Cabrera's two-run double off Brian Ellington. New York also loaded the bases with one out in the sixth inning, but Hunter Cervenka struck out Lucas Duda looking and right-hander Dustin McGowan retired pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson on a fielder's choice to short.
After an emotional pregame ceremony that featured a moment of silence, a video tribute of Fernandez and players from both teams embracing at home plate and near the mound, the Marlins jumped out quickly against Mets starter Bartolo Colon, who worked just 2 1/3 innings, giving up seven runs on eight hits.
Gordon had a season-high four hits, and Bour collected his first career triple, falling a home run shy of the first cycle in club history.
"I wasn't worried about how good we were going to play tonight, because I knew we weren't going to allow this game to get past us like this," Stanton said. "We were hitting balls from underwater, pretty much. Our eyes were full of water, and the numbers were still there. We found a way to do it, all together."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Dee homers, breaks down: Gordon set off a rush of emotions throughout the park with his dramatic homer. The Miami second baseman, visibly shaken over Fernandez's death, paid tribute in a unique way during his first at-bat. The left-handed hitter, wearing Fernandez's helmet, stepped to the plate from the right side -- Fernandez batted right-handed -- and took one pitch, a ball, then traded helmets with the bat boy, taking his own helmet and moving to the left side. He took another ball and walloped a home run to right field, his first homer of the season. The second-deck drive was projected by Statcast™ at 377 feet with an exit velocity of 100 mph.
Tearing up, Gordon was embraced by his teammates and coaches as he broke down in tears in the dugout. It was his first homer of the season, and the fourth leadoff drive of his career, the last coming on Aug. 12, 2015, against the Red Sox.
"It was for [Fernandez], because he loved to hit as much as he loved to pitch," Gordon said. "I thought that was just my way of showing him that, 'I love you. I miss you. I'm always going to miss you.'" More >
Bullpen by committee:Adam Conley made the start in place of Fernandez, and the lefty was appearing in his first big league game since he went on the disabled list on Aug. 14 with left third finger tendinitis. Because of his inactivity, the lefty worked just three scoreless innings and was lifted after 45 pitches. The bullpen picked up the remaining six innings, with A.J. Ramos wrapping up the win in a non-save situation.
"It was Jose's day to start," Conley said. "Things just changed so quickly. We're doing everything we can to stick together and honor the life that he lived."
Asdrubal stays hot: Cabrera, who reached base four times, including in his first three plate appearances, secured a fourth multihit game in his last seven contests. It was Cabrera's third game this season reaching base at least four times, despite playing through a strained patellar tendon in his left knee.
Mets pay tribute: The game began with a chilling pregame ceremony, featuring a lone trumpeter playing the drawn-out notes of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." The Marlins held a moment of silence. Both teams then spilled onto the infield, where Mets players offered hugs and handshakes to their counterparts. Cespedes lingered on the field to embrace several Marlins at length.
• Mets' broadcasters get choked up while discussing Fernandez
"This team is first-class," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Our organization is first-class. I'm very proud of our guys, the way they went about things. They respected, certainly, the night. They respected Jose. And they'll get ready to play tomorrow." More >
"This was bigger than baseball tonight. This touched a lot of people. ... He touched the game." -- Collins
"I think it will get easier for us, as time goes, to play, and there are things you see. Myself, driving today, you come across that bridge and turn toward the parking lot, and there's a big 16 on the building out there, overnight. And you get choked up. I think it's going to keep happening to all of us, over time. I just keep thinking about the families. For us, it's one thing. For them, it's totally different." -- Mattingly
Mets:Noah Syndergaard (13-9, 2.63 ERA) will return to the mound on Tuesday for the first time since coming down with a case of strep throat last week. The Mets wound up pushing the right-hander's start back three days, giving him enough time to regain his strength in advance of the 7:10 p.m. ET start at Marlins Park.
Marlins:Tom Koehler (9-12, 4.02 ERA) will be seeking his first win since Aug. 9, having gone without a victory in eight straight starts. The Marlins have also lost six straight starts with the right-hander on the mound.
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He
writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com
since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.