As Jorge Alfaro stepped into the batter's box with the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the sixth inning, Steven Matz knew he had to be careful with his pitches.
Alfaro's second-inning solo shot to left field gave Miami an early 1-0 lead, which doubled to 2-0 following an RBI single to center field by Migual Rojas. The Marlins threatened again when the cleanup hitter arrived at the plate after Matz began the sixth with three straight hits.
The Mets made a mound visit, but the southpaw's 1-1 pitch found too much plate, with the 89-mph slider at Alfaro's belt over the inner half and landing over the right-center field wall for a game-breaking grand slam.
The Marlins went up six runs, setting the tone for the rest of the night before eventually putting the Mets away in Monday's 8-4 win at Citi Field.
Matz crouched down at the foot of the mound as Alfaro rounded the bases, understanding the sense of urgency for the Mets to finish strong in the last seven games.
The window inched further shut after the Marlins (55-101) dropped the Mets (81-75), who trail the Brewers (86-70) by 5.0 games for the second Wild Card spot with the Cubs (82-74) a game in front of New York.
"It was just frustration -- frustration that I left that ball up a little bit," Matz said. "I was trying to get (Alfaro) to pound that ball into the ground with throwing a slider inside and I left it up and gave him a chance. When you make a bad pitch like that and a guy makes you pay, it's just frustration."
As they have done all year, though, the Mets -- at least initially -- refused go away quietly.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Mets struck right back at Caleb Smith with their own grand slam.
After singles from Todd Frazier and Juan Lagares with Michael Conforto's walk sandwiched between the knocks, the Mets overcame a Wilson Ramos flyout and Rajai Davis pop out when Amed Rosario turned on the southpaw's 0-1 breaking ball, sending the 100th pitch into the left-field seats and putting the Mets right back in the 6-4 game.
"We thought that we could come back at that point, but we just weren't able to complete that objective," Rosario said through an interpreter.
After RHP Jeurys Familia limited Matz's damage to just the grand slam with one hit in the scoreless frame of work, RHP Walker Lockett was ineffective and put the Mets' backs against the wall.
With Lockett unable to record an out in the top of the seventh inning and the Marlins threatening, the Mets turned to RHP Brad Brach, who got two outs on a Rojas sac bunt and Starlin Castro fly out before an intentional walk to Alfaro loaded the bases.
Harold Ramirez's replay-overturned single on a groundball to Pete Alonso put two more Marlins runs on the board, polishing off the eventual 8-4 final as the Mets' only hit over the last two frames ended up being a one-out single by J.D. Davis in the bottom of the ninth.
"Until the number says 'E' in the column, you've got to play," Brach said. "You just never know what can happen. This team can run off six wins, easily. It's happened before this year. We've just got to go out every day and every game, and we can't really control what the other teams do at this point. We've just got to go out and win every single day and, hopefully, come Sunday, we still have a chance. But there's nothing we can really do about the other teams. We just have to win every game."