MIAMI >> Helped by a couple of small victories against Giancarlo Stanton, Steven Matz earned a big win for the New York Mets.
Matz pitched six innings Sunday for his first win since May, twice escaping trouble by getting Stanton to ground out with a runner in scoring position, and the Mets took the rubber game of their series against Miami, 3-0.
"It was good to go out there and put up zeroes and get a win," Matz said.
The Mets won two of three games in the series and returned home trailing second-place Miami by half a game in the NL East.
"This was crunch time for us," manager Terry Collins said. "We couldn't lose any more ground. This was a good series for us to win."
Matz (8-6) allowed four hits, walked two and struck out six. Pitching despite a bone spur in his elbow, he had been 0-5 in his past nine starts with an ERA of 4.73.
He retired the Marlins in order only once, but twice ended threats by retiring Stanton, who has six homers against the Mets this month.
"It was just not giving in, not giving him that good pitch that he can hit," Matz said.
Matz had help in the first inning from an unlikely source. Michael Conforto, starting in center field for the first time as a professional, sprinted to left and made a diving catch and rob leadoff hitter Miguel Rojas.
Conforto also went 2 for 2 before being replaced in the seventh. Collins breathed a sigh of relief that the experiment started well.
"He's here because he can hit," Collins said. "If we don't play him in center field, we have no place to play him. We're not going to find out if he can play center until we get him out there."
Jose Reyes drove in the first run with a two-out RBI triple in the third inning. Reyes, who joined the Mets this month, had five hits in the series to raise his average to .242.
"This guy is going to help us," Collins said. "When he gets 150 at-bats, you are going to see a dynamic leadoff hitter."
Yoenis Cespedes and James Loney contributed consecutive RBI singles in the eighth.
Miami drew consolation from an encouraging start by Jose Urena (1-2), who allowed only one run in six innings. It was the right-hander's second start this season after being recalled from Triple-A, and he could become a fixture in the Marlins' thin rotation.
They lost a starter when left-hander Wei-Yin Chen went on the 15-day disabled list because of a sprained elbow. The move was announced after the game.
"We don't feel like it's anything crazy, but we also want to be cautious," manager Don Mattingly said.
Matz, who beat Miami for the first time in four career starts, helped the Mets notch their ninth shutout this year. He retired the side in order only once but didn't allow any extra-base hits.
"That's probably the best I've seen him," Mattingly said.
"His fastball had late life," Collins said. "He had a lot of swings and misses on his fastball. His changeup and curve ball he threw for strikes."
Three relievers completed a five-hitter, and Jeurys Familiar pitched a perfect ninth to earn his 51st consecutive save, tied for the third-longest in major league history. He has 35 saves this year, most in the majors.
A wild pitch on a strikeout helped the Mets in the eighth, when Alejandro De Aza reached that way to lead off. New York went on to score twice in the inning and won with just six hits.
The Marlins' Ichiro Suzuki, who didn't start in the series, struck out as a pinch hitter in the seventh and remained four hits shy of 3,000.
Mets: They begin a nine-game homestand Monday, when RHP Noah Syndergaard (9-4, 2.43) is scheduled to pitch against Cardinals RHP Carlos Martinez (9-6, 2.83). The Marlins start a three-game series Monday against the Phillies.
Miami: RHP Jarred Cosart will be recalled from New Orleans to start Monday in place of Chen against the Philadelphia Phillies and RHP Jeremy Hellickson (7-7, 3.84).