The Mets’ Marcus Stroman gambit is not paying off.
Six weeks ago, they added Stroman to and subtracted Jason Vargas from their rotation. It was mostly with an eye toward 2020, but they also were curious about how that upgrade could help the 2019 team, which had just started what became a hot streak that made snagging a wild card a legitimate possibility.
Stroman has underperformed, though, and it got worse Saturday night in a 5-0 loss to the Phillies. In his worst start with his new team, he allowed five runs (four earned) in four innings. He gave up 10 hits — his most in more than a year — and struck out six, walking none.
Stroman has a 5.05 ERA and 1.74 WHIP in seven starts since joining the Mets.
“I definitely wanted to come out hot here and I haven’t, so it’s definitely frustrating,” he said. “No one puts more pressure on me than myself. I’m extremely frustrated and kind of angered.”
Most of the damage against Stroman occurred in the fourth inning, which began when J.D. Davis dropped Scott Kingery’s drive to leftfield.
Davis needed no reminders that the ensuing runs were partly on him. As Adam Haseley singled through the right side, he dropped his head. After Cesar Hernandez drove in a run with a single, he punched his glove. When Corey Dickerson dug in at the plate — moments before a two-run double smoked into the rightfield corner — he had his back hunched and his hands on his knees.
The entire sequence, which included plenty of hard contact against Stroman, cost the righthander four runs, a bunch of pitches and the rest of his night. He was replaced in the bottom of the fourth by pinch hitter Jed Lowrie, who struck out swinging in his Mets debut.
Stroman also had trouble in the first, when Hernandez blasted a leadoff homer into the upper deck in right. The Phillies followed with three soft singles to load the bases, but Stroman escaped, catching Kingery’s soft liner. He threw 31 pitches.
“One bad outing is not going to discourage me as a starter, so I look forward to the adversity and getting through this and being where I was,” said Stroman, who was an All-Star with the Blue Jays this year.
Inefficiency was a theme of Stroman’s night — and most nights since the Mets acquired him. He has averaged about five innings per start with the Mets, a drop-off from his average of nearly six innings this year with Toronto. Manager Mickey Callaway said a big part of the problem is a lack of early-count outs.
“He did that so well when he was in Toronto, that early-count ground ball,” Callaway said. “What that does is not only makes it harder to pitch deep into games, but every batter gets to see more and more of his stuff. Sooner or later, they’re going to get you. It’s on us. It’s on the pitcher. We gotta get the ball over the plate a little bit more, entice them to swing at a quality pitch early in the count and get them to make some soft contact there so we can get those early-count outs.”
Phillies lefthander Drew Smyly held the Mets to four hits and two walks in seven innings. After throwing 78 pitches through four innings, he got through the next three on only 30. Smyly, released by the Rangers and Brewers this year, lowered his ERA to 6.20.
The Mets went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position, including Todd Frazier’s line drive to right-center with the bases loaded in the first. Haseley made a running, leaping catch to end the inning.
“I thought we swung the bat well. Sometimes it’s unfortunate,” Pete Alonso said. “[Smyly] had really good defense behind him tonight. We hit a lot of balls hard and the defense made some really good plays.”
The Mets (72-69) remained four games back of a postseason spot. Said Alonso, “Not all is lost yet.”