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Jay Bruce homers again as Mets beat Marlins, 5-2

September 29, 2016

MIAMI – For the second straight night Giancarlo Stanton did not have enough room to pursue a fly ball Jay Bruce hit to right field, instead having to watch it sail over the wall.

The Mets have been waiting for Bruce to get on a hot streak for some time now, and with Wednesday’s homer he now has homered in consecutive games for the first time since joining the team.

Bruce may finally be ready to be the cog the Mets envisioned him being.

Bruce hit a two-run homer and Seth Lugo provided 5 1/3 innings of two-run ball to lift the Mets to a 5-2 win over Miami on Wednesday night at Marlins Park. Bruce is hitting .438 in his last five games, and the Mets (85-74) lowered their magic number to three with the Cardinals result pending.

The Mets finished 12-7 against Miami and begin their final series Friday against Philadelphia.

As the Mets enter the final three games of the season, Bruce perhaps is the biggest X-factor on the team and could determine just how far it advances.

New York acquired him thinking he would be a key piece for the final two months, but he has been largely unproductive and recently lost playing time to Michael Conforto. It even seemed as if Conforto may have won the right-field job, but Bruce’s recent hot streak and power surge likely have him penciled in the lineup.

“I’ve found some results for sure, and hitting the ball hard and contributing to the team a bit,” Bruce said Tuesday. “That’s my only goal, to contribute and help the team win and get to the playoffs.”

Bruce gave the Mets the lead for good Tuesday with a towering two-run bomb into the upper deck in an eventual 12-1 win over Miami, and he added another two-run shot Wednesday.

The Mets trailed 2-0 early before James Loney hit a two-run homer in the second to tie it. Jose Reyes gave New York a one-run lead in the fourth with a two-out double. Lugo initiated that rally by lacing a two-out double just inside the first-base line to get in scoring position.

Bruce, who hit a line-drive out in his first at-bat and walked in his second, battled Jose Urena to a full count in the fifth, then demolished a change-up that caught too much plate to push the lead to 5-2. Bruce now has seven homers since arriving and three in his last five games.

He later walked against lefty Hunter Cervenka to finish 1-for-2 with two walks.

If Bruce truly has found his swing, he gives the Mets a potent top five hitters: Reyes, Asdrubal Cabrera, Yoenis Cespedes and Curtis Granderson are playing well. The pitching might not be able to dominate in the postseason as it did last year, because the rotation now features two rookies and a 43-year-old. So the offense may have to win some high-scoring affairs.

“If he’s back, we’re going to be a different lineup,” Mets manager Terry Collins said of Bruce.

Bruce’s homer provided some cushion for Lugo, who produced another solid outing in his final start of the regular season. He allowed five hits and struck out two.

Lugo put the Mets in a hole by surrendering a two-run homer to Martin Prado in the first, but his ability to escape jams served him well.

He stranded a pair in the first by striking out Jeff Mathis to end the inning, and retired Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Bour with two aboard in the third in a tie game. He later induced a weak fly-out from Dee Gordon to end the fourth with a runner on second and the Mets ahead by a run.

Opponents are 7-for-47 (.159) against Lugo with runners in scoring position. He finished with a 2.68 ERA in eight starts.