Marlins gain ground in NL East by running over Mets

NEW YORK -- Nick Johnson has hobbled through some pretty good at-bats since returning from the disabled list, and his teammates have noticed his effort.

Johnson had a pair of two-run singles Thursday night and the Florida Marlins beat the listless New York Mets 13-4 to gain ground on the NL East-leading Phillies.

"That just tells you what kind of gamer he is," Dan Uggla said. "He's just a clutch hitter."

Since returning from a right hamstring strain on Sept. 3, Johnson has at least one hit in each of his six games and has driven in nine runs despite noticeably struggling on the bases.

"It's been a while for me but this is what it's all about," Johnson said about being in a playoff race. "I'm not pushing it. Even though I'm feeling better out there I'm just trying to keep the speed and go from first to third at that speed, do the treatment and try to stay out there."

Hanley Ramirez and Cody Ross each had three hits and two RBIs for the Marlins, who completed their first sweep of the Mets since taking four straight Aug. 30-Sept. 2, 2004, in New York. Uggla hit his 27th homer in the third inning.

Florida has enjoyed its September trips to New York the last couple years. Spoilers in 2007 and '08, the Marlins twice dashed the Mets' playoff hopes on the last day with victories. This year they came to the Big Apple with postseason aspirations of their own.

The Marlins wrapped up a 5-1 trip and moved within five games of Philadelphia, which lost 8-7 at Washington. They also remained 5 1/2 back of the wild card-leading Rockies with 22 games remaining, including six against the Phillies.

"It's a fun part of the year if you're doing it," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said of scoreboard watching.

Johnson delivered in the seventh and eighth as the Marlins missed their season high for runs by one and amassed 16 hits.

The Mets (62-78) fell 16 games under .500 for the first time since finishing 71-91 in 2004.

Playing in front of a Citi Field crowd that was about half the announced attendance of 37,620, the Mets showed why they've come apart this season.

Bobby Parnell walked consecutive batters with the bases loaded after an error by shortstop Anderson Hernandez and Angel Pagan forgot how many outs there were while running the bases. Luis Castillo had another adventure at second base and New York pitchers didn't have a 1-2-3 inning until the ninth.

The Mets held a 30-minute meeting following batting practice then fell behind quickly. The Marlins led 3-0 by the time the 19-minute, 40-pitch first inning was over.

"Every time I have a meeting we seem to play that way so I guess we won't have anymore meetings," manager Jerry Manuel said.

Chris Coghlan hustled for a leadoff double when left fielder Nick Evans and center fielder Pagan were slow to get to his soft liner in the gap. Parnell (3-8) walked Johnson and Ramirez reached on Hernandez's error to load the bases. Parnell then walked two batters for a 2-0 lead.

The Mets lead the majors with 19 bases-loaded walks -- three by Parnell -- two more than Texas. They've also hit two batters with the bases loaded, according to STATS LLC.

"I haven't been as consistent as I wanted to be," said Parnell, who walked five. "To come out in the first inning and not throw strikes is aggravating."

Ross added an RBI single for a 3-0 lead on a fly to shallow center that appeared to be catchable. He also had an RBI double in the fifth.

Rookie left-hander Sean West, who hit a ground-rule double into the New York bullpen in right-center and scored on Ramirez's single in the fourth, scuffled in the bottom half, giving up two runs. He was pulled two batters into the fifth, allowing four runs and six hits. Burke Badenhop (7-4) pitched two innings.

"One of these days, I'll stick around for seven [innings]," West said. "It's all about the Ws. I'm not worried about my performance."

Pagan turned a routine flyout into an inning-ending double play in the seventh. Castillo spun around aimlessly looking for a ball at his feet after diving for Uggla's grounder in the eighth, aiding a three-run inning.

Game notes
Each team struck out 10 times. ... Mets RHP John Maine (sore shoulder) will make his first start since June 6 on Sunday in a doubleheader opener at Philadelphia. ... Marlins RHP Rick VandenHurk had his normal bullpen session after leaving Tuesday's start with a sore back muscle. He hopes to make his start Sunday against Washington.