It may not carry the same weight as Mickey Owen's infamous passed ball that helped the Yankees win the 1941 World Series over the Dodgers, but a third-strike wild pitch that ignited the Marlins' game-winning rally Sunday may be lamented by Mets fans for years to come.
Tied at 3-3 in the ninth after Justin Bour's dramatic pinch-hit homer in the eighth, the Marlins, utilizing one of the most dramatic, 12-pitch at-bats in franchise history by Martin Prado, danced off the field with a 4-3 victory over the NL East-leading Mets.
The 57-80 Marlins took the three-game set, with two walk-off victories — their eighth last-inning dog-pile of the season — but more significantly allowed them to play the spoiler role to perfection as the Nationals moved to within four games of the Mets.
Jeff Mathis, whose first homer of the season in the fifth gave the Marlins a short-lived 3-2 lead, led off the ninth by striking out on a curve ball in the dirt that got away from catcher Anthony Recker. One out later, Dee Gordon's third hit of the game sent pinch-runner J.T. Realmuto scampering to third.
Reliever Tyler Clippard (2-1), who served up Bour's upper-deck bomb an inning earlier — the first pinch-hit homer of his career and first for the Marlins this season — then intentionally walked the red-hot Christian Yelich to load the bases for Prado.
"I was looking for a pitch in my zone I can handle,'' Bour said. "I'm not looking for a home run but in that situation that's what we need.''
Down 0-2, the count went full before Prado fouled off six straight pitches to escalate the tension among the 26,780 fans, many donned in Mets' colors. Prado then stroked a change-up to left field that Yoenis Cespedes snared, but even a strong throw by the Mets' newfound Superman couldn't get the speedy Realmuto at home.
Just two games earlier, Prado's fifth hit of the night sealed a 6-5 walk-off victory over the Mets in the 11th inning.
"Sometimes you can hear every single voice in the stands screaming. There's a lot of noise. You have to make sure it's only you and the pitcher,'' said Prado, who has three walk-off RBI this season and eight in his career.
"That's a battle. ... This is a game of pride. If the Mets were in the same situation I bet you every single team in this division would play us hard enough to not make the road easy all the way to the end. That's the beauty of baseball.''
Marlins manager Dan Jennings, perhaps the only man in the dugout old enough to remember Owen's legendary gaffe, marveled at Prado's at-bat.
"You got to be around the game a long time to see a better at-bat than that,'' Jennings said. "Just tremendous. His focus, his concentration, from the pitches he fouled off from the change-up to the fastball, and then to come through and have that type of finish. ...
"He's a professional hitter. Martin has taken over this team; he's become a very outspoken leader of that clubhouse.''
The Mets loaded the bases in the top of the ninth but reliever A.J. Ramos (2-4) induced a 6-4-3 double play from pinch-hitter Travis d'Arnaud.
Before Bour's 16th homer, the game's focus was on a couple of 24-year-old starting pitchers who hadn't been on the mound since early July because of injuries.
Mets rookie left-hander Steven Matz won his first two big-league starts before sustaining a torn lateral muscle on July 5. Jarred Cosart hadn't pitched in the majors since July 4th when a bout of vertigo sent him to the disabled list and to several doctors before it was determined he had an inner-ear disorder.
Cosart, hoping to relocate his 2014 form, served up a center-cut 95-mph fastball to Cespedes, who nearly dented the art deco sculpture in straightaway center for his 30th. Cespedes has homered in four of his last five games and since being acquired from the Tigers on July 31, has 12 homers and 29 RBI in 33 games for the Mets.
The Marlins countered with a first-inning run when in honor of his Bobblehead Day, Marcell Ozuna stroked a two-out RBI single to score Gordon, who had walked and stole second.
For a pitcher who has been off balance with vertigo, Cosart kept the high-scoring Mets off balance through 4 2/3 innings, as he got nine ground-outs, while allowing one run on five hits. Not quite as controversial as agent Scott Boras' declaration that his client, Mets ace Brian Harvey, be shut down after 180 innings, Cosart was yanked after 88 pitches, 54 for strikes.
"That looked like the Cosart from last year that we had counted on coming in,'' Jennings said.
His replacement, Chris Narveson, who was coming off his first win as a starter since 2012, gave up a single to Cespedes and a two-run homer to Wilmer Flores — the other half of this dynamic duo who will go down in Mets folk lore if they win the World Series this season.
Meanwhile, Matz was forced out after 5 1/3 innings due to a blister on the middle finger of his left hand after giving up four hits and two runs.