Flushing, NY- Jesús Luzardo used the changeup as his best pitch Wednesday evening at Citi Field and the Marlins left-hander shutout the Mets for six innings. Then, Eduardo Escobar went to work in the seventh inning and hit a two-run home run.
That home run would narrow the 4-0 Marlins lead. In the end, Luzardo did not get the decision because Escobar got the walk-off 10th inning single that got the Mets a needed and crucial 5-4 win. For the moment the Mets have a slim one game lead in the NL East as they departed for a crucial three-game series in Atlanta with the Braves that could decide the division winner.
Though, for Luzardo, this was a win because he continues to show his cause for a starting role next year in the Marlins pitching rotation. MLB claims the 24 year-old is the first player from Peru, his place of birth, but Luzardo spent most of his youth residing in Venezuela that is considered home.
But in his Citi Field debut, Luzardo gave the Mets problems. Pete Alonso was a strikeout victim three times, quite a contrast from three previous starts against the Mets where he compiled a 6.43 ERA in 14.0 i innings, including September 11 in Miami, allowing five runs in 3 ⅓ innings.
Though, Wednesday night, he made the adjustments. Manager Don Mattingly said, “A good bounce back start for him. Had the good changeup and kept the ball in the zone.”
And that sixth inning, Luzardo struck out the side. He got Alonso with a swing and miss a third time.
All of that stands good for a pitcher who constantly works to make adjustments and improve. Until that Escobar home run, the changeup had the Mets possibly looking at a Marlins two game sweep and remaining in a first place division deadlock with the Braves.
“It was definitely a good bounce back start compared to the last time I saw them,” Luzardo said. “In the beginning of the game, I didn’t feel I had my best stuff, not getting ahead of guys, having a lot of three-ball counts. But later on, the changeup got me back in the zone and than I started finding the fastball command.”
Though he lost Escobar with a changeup that went for his 20th home run of the season.
“It was just a bad pitch,” he said. “It wasn’t throwing the changeup there, but more the location. It was frustrating looking back, I felt like it was my biggest mistake. I got punished, obviously a changeup over the zone isn’t where you want to throw it.”
However, this is a continuing part of the learning process and Luzardo is patient with the adjustments as there is optimism he will be included in the Marlins rebuilding process towards contention next year.
Once with the Oakland Athletics, traded to the Marlins at midpoint last season, a setback with a strain to his forearm in August gave him more determination and he has compiled a 3.31 ERA since the All-Star break.
“It has been a very positive season,”he said. “A step in the right direction compared to last year. After last year, I wanted to make sure I would come in, make progress and I’m happy about the progress that I made. I hope to continue to make more.”
And for sure the progress continued Wednesday night. The Mets needed this win. Luzardo had them shut down until that home run ball.
This weekend, the Mets will continue their journey to a possible divisional title and Jesús Luzardo will prepare for his next and most likely last start of a successful season. Then, it’s back home and working hard with more goals for next season.
“I’m there to represent my family and country,” he said. “Stay focused and strengthen my arm in right condition for next year.”
Rich Mancuso Is a senior writer with Latinosports.com Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com Watch “Sports with Rich” live on Tuesday Nights at 8pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with Robert Rizzo Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify under The SLG Network.
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