Mets’ magic number down to two after rubber-game win, Cards’ loss

11:59 PM ET

MIAMI — The New York Mets need to pick up some champagne and goggles on their day off in Philadelphia. Their magic number to clinch a postseason berth is down to two and could be secured as soon as Friday.

James Loney and Jay Bruce produced two-run homers and the Mets beat the Miami Marlins 5-2 in Wednesday’s rubber game at Marlins Park.

The victory allowed the Mets (85-74) to open a one-game lead over the San Francisco Giants and a 2½-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals, pending the outcome of San Francisco’s game against the Colorado Rockies late Wednesday.

The Mets now take Thursday off before concluding the regular season with a three-game weekend series at the Philadelphia Phillies.

Ideally, the Mets will have clinched a postseason berth before the regular-season finale, so Noah Syndergaard can be limited to 25 pitches on Sunday and then pitch in next Wednesday’s wild-card game. The Mets also are contemplating having Bartolo Colon pitch on short rest Friday in Philadelphia rather than Saturday. That way, Colon can be lined up as a contingency for the wild-card game if Syndergaard needs to go full throttle Sunday to clinch.

Colon tossed only 47 pitches before getting knocked out in the first inning on Monday in Miami, so coming back on short rest might not be overly taxing. Still, in his one start on short rest this season, the 43-year-old Colon allowed five runs in five innings against the Rockies on July 30. That start on short rest was prompted by a rainout causing a doubleheader the next day.

Of course, the Mets’ postseason rotation will look nothing like they envisioned earlier this season. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler all are shut down for the season.

Still, rookies Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo have proved credible fill-in rotation components and will be starting along with Syndergaard and Colon should the Mets reach the division series against the Chicago Cubs.

Lugo limited the Marlins to two runs on five hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings as he improved to 5-2 with a 2.67 ERA. The lone damage against him came on a first-inning two-run homer by Martin Prado.

Other positives from Wednesday: Curtis Granderson is getting on base more frequently. He went 4-for-4 with a walk on Wednesday. He has now reached base in eight straight plate appearances. He also has scored six runs in his last four games. Also, after a dismal start to his Mets career, Jay Bruce now has three homers in the last five games.

Manager Terry Collins said Bruce is no longer letting pitches get too deep on him before swinging.

“He’s locked in,” Collins said. “He’s laying off pitches. It couldn’t have come at a better time. … I see a different swing.”

After the series finale, Collins sought opposing manager Don Mattingly near the Marlins dugout to offer support.

It was emotional for the Mets to participate in the first Marlins games since the death of ace Jose Fernandez. Collins could not imagine what it was like to be in the home dugout trying to compete after the tragedy.

Fernandez’s funeral is Thursday.

“We have a special group of guys. They are very respectful,” Collins said. “They’re respectful of the game. They’re respectful of people. We made as much of a tribute to Jose as we could without getting overboard with it. We had games to play that were very meaningful for us. I thought the guys after Monday night realized they had to go out and play. We had some great at-bats the last couple of nights.

“I told Donnie, what he had to go through in the last three days, and what he’s got to go through tomorrow, you don’t wish on anybody. How he got his team ready to play, he should be proud of it. Because that had to be really hard.”


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