On a rare dry night at Citi Field, Marcus Stroman had the Phillies wishing for a freakish downpour to save them.
But there was no escape from Stroman, who two days earlier stood on a waterlogged mound — flipping soggy baseballs away — and threw only nine pitches before Sunday’s game against the Marlins ultimately was postponed 2 hours and 10 minutes after it never should have been started.
Stroman later expressed his frustration on Twitter, emphasizing safety concerns for his teammates because of the monsoon-like conditions. It was the Phillies, however, who wound up being victimized by Stroman’s quick turnaround as he pitched six scoreless innings and the Mets finished off a doubleheader sweep with the 4-0 victory in Game 2 on Tuesday night.
The Mets probably weren’t all that pleased by Stroman’s tweet questioning their decision to proceed with Sunday’s rain-soaked debacle, where he called it "not smart at all." Initially, Stroman suggested he wouldn’t start again for another five days, his turn in the rotation blown up by sending him out in Sunday’s torrential rain.
But after using Monday to gauge his readiness, the former Patchogue-Medford star gave the green light to come back on one day’s rest and got to the brink of throwing the Mets’ first complete game since July 27, 2019, when Steven Matz turned in a 3-0 shutout of the Pirates. So the Mets’ stretch without a CG now extends to 125 games.
"Coming out here today was kind of a question mark, to be honest," Stroman said. "I threw [Monday] and felt pretty good and told Luis [Rojas] that I’d be ready to roll. Our training staff was awesome to get me the work I needed to get my body in shape and ready to go and we did that. I felt great."
Thanks in part to seven-inning doubleheaders, a creation of this COVID-19 era, Stroman got close to going the distance. He had thrown 86 pitches through six innings, with apparent ease, but a long bottom of the sixth inning at the plate for the Mets is what ultimately did him in. Rojas let Stroman hit and he drew a one-out walk, putting on a jacket to ward off the night’s creeping chill. But all that time on the basepaths proved to be too much to come back, with Rojas later saying that Stroman told him it was probably best to call it a night at that point.
"It wasn’t much of a decision," Stroman said. "If it was later in the year, I’m sure I would have been out there. But because it’s such a long year, and because of the scheduling — how many days I’ve had between starts — I didn’t think it was a smart idea."
For a while, it looked like Stroman had bigger history in mind. He was perfect through three innings until Matt Joyce punched an 0-and-2 fastball to rightfield for a leadoff single. A double play still kept Stroman at the minimum faced and the Phillies only had one runner reach second base — J.T. Realmuto, after his infield single in the fifth inning and Jean Segura’s base hit. Stroman still escaped, however, by getting Adam Haseley on a fly ball to leftfield.
Stroman wasn’t the same ground-ball machine during his first victory over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, but he was every bit as effective before yielding to Jeurys Familia for the seventh inning. That night in Philly, Stroman recorded the highest ground-ball rate (83.3%) of any MLB pitcher this season and tops for a Met since Jon Niese had one of 85.7% in 2015.
On Tuesday, only six of Stroman’s 18 outs were on the ground. He whiffed three without a walk in trimming his ERA to 0.75 in what was officially his third start this season. Of his 86 pitches, 61 were strikes. Stroman also improved to 8-1 with a 2.61 ERA for his career against the NL East (12 appearances, 10 starts).
"I’m fortunate to be able to see the game from centerfield so I can get a view that no one else gets, except maybe the TV audience," Brandon Nimmo said. "So I got to see how sharp he was and how he was hitting his spots and how he was commanding the mound with his presence. It just felt like he had it tonight."
Obviously, this is a huge year for Stroman, on a few different levels. Personally, he’s coming off the COVID-19 opt-out, leaving him with plenty to prove after missing last season. He’s also a pending free agent, which means there’s a ton of money hanging in the balance after he returned to the Mets on the $18.9 million qualifying offer. All of that is in addition to the sky-high expectations surrounding the team as a whole.
So far, Stroman is acing every test.