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Jose Reyes makes big contribution as Mets beat Marlins

MIAMI -- Jose Reyes isn’t washed up yet. At least he gave that distinct impression on Friday.

Playing at Marlins Park for the first time since he was traded away in a fire sale after the 2012 season, Reyes scored twice and drove in another run as the New York Mets beat the Miami Marlins 5-3.

The Mets (51-44) pulled within a half-game of the Marlins (52-44) for the second wild-card spot.

The Mets are giving ample playing time to Reyes to determine what he has left at age 33. The early returns as the Mets arrived at Marlins Park were not resoundingly positive. Installed as the leadoff hitter upon joining the team on July 5, Reyes entered the series opener in Miami hitting a modest .213 with a .269 on-base percentage in 12 games.

The hope has been that Reyes’ speed atop the order will help manufacture runs on a team that has relied on homers to generate the majority of its offense.

Sure enough, Reyes had a game-opening double against left-hander Adam Conley on Friday. He then stole third and scored on Yoenis Cespedes’ sacrifice fly. The Mets took a 2-0 lead in the fourth when Travis d’Arnaud scored on Reyes’ two-out single. And a half-inning after Christian Yelich's two-run homer against Logan Verrett in the sixth tied the score, the Mets retook the lead when Reyes had a leadoff single and ultimately scored on another sacrifice fly by Cespedes.

“He’s like a can of Red Bull bottled up into a human being,” Verrett said about Reyes. “That’s something that we were lacking. He brings that energy to the field every single day. He had a huge game for us today at the plate. He brings the same exact energy if he’s 0-for-4 at the plate, which is what you need.”

Said manager Terry Collins: “I hope he has a lot more of them like that, and that’s what we envisioned. He’s still got good bat speed. His hands are still quick. It’s a matter of accumulating some at-bats.”

James Loney hit a two-run homer in the ninth to provide a 5-2 cushion. Jeurys Familia allowed a run in the bottom of the inning but converted his 50th straight regular-season save.

Reyes finished 3-for-5.

“Hopefully I can continue to be like that,” Reyes said. “When you have a game like that, you need to be a little bit consistent and remind yourself what you did in that game when you were successful.”

Cespedes had sat out Wednesday’s series finale at Wrigley Field so that his cranky right quadriceps could get a two-day break.

Meanwhile, although the Mets are looking at the trade market for starting pitchers, they appear content to focus on relief help and leave Verrett in the rotation until Zack Wheeler is ready to pitch in the majors for the first time since the 2014 season.

Visiting his teammates as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery, Wheeler threw a 30-pitch bullpen session Friday at Marlins Park. He may throw batting practice as soon as next week back in Port St. Lucie. Once he does that for the first time, Wheeler is roughly 10 days from beginning a rehab assignment that may last as long as a month. So late August or early September might be the best-case scenario for Wheeler’s return.

Verrett’s recent showings since entering the rotation for Matt Harvey have lessened the urgency of Wheeler’s return. After limiting the Philadelphia Phillies to two runs in six innings last weekend, Verrett took a scoreless effort into the sixth against the Marlins. He departed after 5 1/3 innings with the score tied at 2.

Harvey underwent season-ending surgery on Monday in St. Louis that involved removing a rib to address thoracic outlet syndrome.

The Mets actually had the option of skipping Verrett and using a four-man rotation this turn because the team had a day off Thursday. However, with Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard both having at least modest health concerns, Collins did not seriously entertain skipping Verrett.

The Mets had expressed hope that a regular starter’s routine would get Verrett back to resembling the pitcher who stepped in for Jacob deGrom in April and logged 12 scoreless innings in two starts. The early second-half returns with stable work have been relatively positive.

“Last week was a good step forward, and this one was an even bigger step,” Verrett said.

It certainly was important to win the series opener, especially given the daunting assignment the Mets face on Saturday as Jose Fernandez opposes deGrom. Fernandez is 25-1 with a 1.43 ERA in 36 career starts at Marlins Park.

Of course, deGrom has rebounded since a tumultuous April that included a lat issue and a health scare with his newborn son. DeGrom is 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA in his last four starts. He tossed a one-hit shutout in Philadelphia in his first start of the second half.

“If you’re going to have, right now, a guy on our staff to match up [with Fernandez], it’d be Jacob deGrom,” Collins said. “He’s pitched his last two starts as good as anybody. If you’re a baseball fan, if you love the game, tomorrow night is a game you’d want to come and see.”