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Morning Briefing: Mets looking up at Marlins in standings

CHICAGO -- The New York Mets spend a day off in South Florida looking up at the Miami Marlins in the standings.

Despite a loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday night, the Marlins (51-43) hold a one-game lead over the Mets (50-44) for the second wild-card spot.

The teams play a three-game series this weekend at Marlins Park.

Logan Verrett opposes Adam Conley in Friday’s series opener, followed by Jacob deGrom versus Jose Fernandez on Saturday and Steven Matz versus Jose Urena on Sunday.

“They’re playing very, very well,” Terry Collins said about the Marlins. “We’ve got to go win two. We’ve got to make up some ground. There’s no doubt it’s going to be a big weekend for us.”

Collins noted four Marlins players are near the top of the leaderboard in batting average -- Christian Yelich (.317), J.T. Realmuto (.315), Martin Prado (.313) and Marcell Ozuna (.301). Meanwhile, Fernandez is 2-0 with a 1.32 ERA in six career starts against the Mets. He also is 25-1 with a 1.43 ERA in 36 career starts at Marlins Park.

“They’ve got a very, very good offensive club,” Collins said. “We’re going to see Jose Fernandez. He’s almost unbeatable at home. That’s no fun. But this is what this time of year brings. When you’re in a pennant race, they’re big games against big teams and against good pitching.”

THURSDAY’S NEWS REPORTS:

  • Bartolo Colon surrendered a pair of homers to Anthony Rizzo and was charged with a season-high-matching six runs in 4⅓ innings and the Chicago Cubs beat the Mets 6-2, in Wednesday’s rubber game at Wrigley Field. Yoenis Cespedes, Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker all rested during the matinee. Cespedes needed the break because his quadriceps is not 100 percent, according to Collins. Wilmer Flores' two-run homer in the eighth against left-hander Travis Wood accounted for the Mets’ only runs. Flores now has seven homers in July, which is tied for the MLB lead. The Mets nonetheless finished the season series 5-2 against the Cubs. Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Times, Journal, Newsday, Record and at NJ.com and MLB.com.

  • Columnist Mike Vaccaro in the Post notes that the Mets are a .500 team since April 27. He writes: “It is becoming harder and harder to muster a genuine belief the Mets ever can make a run at the Nationals. And it is becoming more and more complicated to see them staying in the hunt for either wild-card berth, mostly because it isn’t likely a wild-card participant is going to get in with an 84-78 record.”

  • The Mets are giving Jose Reyes ample playing time to see if he sinks or swims. Columnist David Lennon in Newsday writes: The Mets “are getting antsy with Jose Reyes, who is showing glimpses of being the leadoff hitter they anticipated. Reyes was never going to be a one-man cure-all for the Mets’ difficulty with manufacturing runs, but hitting .213 (10-for-47) with a .269 on-base percentage is something less than the Mets imagined.”

  • Jim Henderson had a hamstring issue while on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Las Vegas and has returned to Port St. Lucie. Read more in the Post.

  • For the first time since landing on the disabled list in May with a stress fracture in his lower back, Lucas Duda started taking grounders at first base and swinging a bat Wednesday.

  • Zack Wheeler will visit the team in Miami this weekend. He is scheduled to throw a bullpen session for Mets staff on Friday.

  • Mike Piazza’s Hall of Fame plaque will be on display at Citi Field during the final weekend of the month, when Piazza’s No. 31 is due to be retired by the Mets. Read more in Newsday.

  • Ex-teammates discuss in the Post what it is like to be Piazza’s teammate.

  • Columnist Phil Rogers at MLB.com notes it will be more challenging for the Mets to acquire an impact player at the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline than a year ago.

  • Gavin Cecchini’s error led to three unearned runs against Sean Gilmartin in the first inning and Omaha beat Las Vegas 8-2. Rafael Montero walked six and hit a batter, but Binghamton beat Bowie 8-4. David Thompson had St. Lucie’s only two hits in a 6-0 loss to Tampa. Read the full minor league recap here.

  • From the bloggers ... Faith and Fear tries to figure out how obvious losses become actual wins. ... Mets Report questions the handling of Cespedes’ balky quadriceps.

BIRTHDAYS: Mike Cubbage turns 66. ... Mike Bordick is 51. ... Brian Buchanan is 43. ... Brett Hinchliffe is 42. ... Johnny Magliozzi is 25.

TWEET OF THE DAY:

YOU’RE UP: Are the Marlins a legitimate wild-card contender?