MIAMI - Injuries have ravaged the Mets' bullpen, which until Tuesday night had not blinked. But in a 4-3 loss to the Marlins, setup man Carlos Torres couldn't come through.
The Mets trailed 3-0, rallied to tie it in the seventh, then faltered in the eighth with Torres on the mound.
The bullpen had entered the game with a 16-inning scoreless streak dating to April 19. But Torres issued a pair of walks, setting up Michael Morse to knock in the go-ahead run with a one-out single to center.
With that, the Mets were denied in their bid for their ninth comeback win of the season.
Juan Lagares delivered a game-tying hit, lashing a 410-foot double to clear the bases in the seventh. But it wasn't enough.
The hit had bailed out Rafael Montero, who allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings in his first spot start of the season. He had been recalled to give Matt Harvey and the rest of the Mets' starters an extra day's rest.
Montero, 24, had baffled the Mets. The most egregious example came on April 10 during a relief appearance against the Braves. He threw 35 pitches, all of them fastballs. It was an alarming sign, an indication that he lacked confidence in his secondary pitches. That doubt is part of the reason he was ultimately demoted to the minors.
"His fastball and changeup can beat you," pitching coach Dan Warthen said before the game. "All I need to see is something that will show up in there every so often that he can drop in to a guy who sits on fastball."
Warthen sent Montero down with instructions to once again attack the strike zone, just as he had done in spring training, when he made a strong push to make the starting rotation.
Instead, Montero began the year in the bullpen. He didn't take to the new role. One talent evaluator noted Montero's dip in velocity, the result of trouble finding a reliable warm-up routine. Still, after two starts in the minors, the Mets recalled him to make his first start of the season. Collins took no chances, pairing him with veteran catcher Anthony Recker to avoid a repeat of the Braves debacle.
"He knows the Marlins real well," Collins said before the game. "And I think if there's one guy who would probably force Rafi to use all of his stuff, it would be Reck."
In that regard, the Mets got exactly what they wanted. Montero mixed his pitches, featuring a slider and changeup to complement his fastball. He even showed the confidence to throw it on the first pitch. He retired the first nine batters he faced, but later ran out of gas.
Montero's fastball touched 94 mph for most of the game. But in the sixth, his velocity dipped to 91. By the end of the sixth, Montero was watching from the dugout. He had allowed a leadoff single to Dee Gordon, who advanced to second when rightfielder Curtis Granderson bobbled the ball.
Martin Prado's sacrifice bunt moved Gordon to third ahead of Giancarlo Stanton. Instead of walking him intentionally, Collins chose to go after him, even after a 3-and-0 count. Stanton made Montero pay, ripping an RBI single to score Gordon. Two batters later, rookie J.T. Realmuto chased Montero from the game with an RBI single.
The Marlins added another run when reliever Buddy Carlyle bounced a wild pitch past Recker, scoring Marcell Ozuna from third to make it 3-0.