The Marlins are hanging on by a thread in the postseason race, but their hopes for October are diminishing with every loss. While they have dropped six of their past nine and sit two games below .500, the team is just 5 1/2 back for the second NL Wild Card spot.
Despite generating some optimism in a 9-6 victory against New York on Monday, Miami may be in store for a tough night with Jon Niese taking the mound for the Mets opposite Brad Penny on Tuesday at Marlins Park.
Niese has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 23 of his 25 starts -- including four consecutive quality starts. His 3.48 ERA is not overly impressive, but it is good enough to be the second-best mark among Mets hurlers with at least 18 starts.
His consistency continued in his last start, as Niese limited Atlanta to three earned runs over 7 1/3 innings on Thursday. However, he was disappointed, as the Braves scored two of those runs thanks to a leadoff double by opposing pitcher Mike Minor.
Emilio Bonifacio followed with a triple and Freddie Freeman singled to chase Niese, who was in position to give up one run or fewer in an outing of at least six innings for only the third time since accomplishing that feat three times in April alone.
But as Niese and the Mets dealt with another crushing defeat that night, the left-hander spoke to a larger desire he shared with teammates with only a month remaining in the 2014 campaign.
"I want it bad," Niese said of a strong September. "I'm just hoping that all 25 of us have that same feeling. We need that to make the games in September meaningful. This year's kind of -- I don't want to say 'lost,' because you want to play every game the same in September. But it does mean a lot to play games and have them mean something."
While it remains subject to change, for now Penny is getting the nod as Miami's fifth starter. Manager Mike Redmond made the move official on Saturday afternoon.
With Penny back in the rotation, left-hander Brad Hand is back in the bullpen.
Penny, 36, has made two starts this season, going 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA. He's also pitched twice in relief -- including throwing one scoreless inning in Friday's 5-2 loss in Atlanta.
"He's done a nice job," Redmond said. "He's been in big games, big situations. He's earned it."
Marlins: Stanton reaching franchise, personal heights
• Giancarlo Stanton hit a solo homer on Monday, giving him 34 for the season and 151 for his career. He needs only four more home runs to break Dan Uggla's franchise record of 154.
The solo shot also represented Stanton's 99th RBI, which puts him only one short of his first career season at or above the 100-RBI mark. Stanton's previous best was 87 RBIs in 2011.
Mets: Later innings are Familia territory
• Jeurys Familia has been a terrific arm out of the New York bullpen in 2014, compiling a 2.13 ERA over 65 appearances encompassing 67 2/3 innings. He is also on pace to make history, as his 16 holds are the second-most by a Mets rookie.
Familia is one hold short of tying Scott Rice's record of 17 set in 2013, and is currently tied with Bobby Parnell's mark of 16 set in 2009.
• Miami's win on Monday snapped a five-game losing streak against the Mets.
• The Marlins' bullpen pitched 6 2/3 innings in relief of Henderson Alvarez on Monday and sports a 2.42 ERA over 130 1/3 innings since the All-Star break.
Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.