It turned out to be a very bad weekend for the Mets.
Right-hander Marcus Stroman was hurt by the long ball Sunday afternoon as New York lost to Tampa Bay, 7-1, at Tropicana Field, completing the Rays' three-game sweep.
New York dropped to 18-16, but they remain in first place in the National League East by a half-game after the Phillies lost to the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla.
It got worse because Stroman had one of his worst outings of the year. He allowed five runs in six innings, with all five runs coming on homers.
Stroman got off to a good start, retiring 10 of the first 11 hitters he faced. But then things quickly went south.
The Rays took the lead in the fourth inning when Manuel Margot hit a two-run homer over the left-center-field wall. An inning later, Willy Adames also hit a two-run homer, an opposite-field shot over the right-center-field wall.
Brandon Lowe then led off the bottom of the sixth with a homer to right off Stroman.
“Just looking at the three home runs that he allowed … I thought that his sinker wasn’t getting the down movement,” manager Luis Rojas said. “The pitch to Margot ran back to the middle of the plate just a little bit. It went to his barrel for a two-run homer. Same thing happened with Adames. The two two-run homers were similar pitches that ran in the middle of the plate.”
Stroman acknowledged that he didn’t have it on Sunday. He plans to put the game behind him.
“I don’t really overthink it, to be honest," Stroman said. "I don’t dwell on a bad start any more than I dwell on a good start. Just wash it and get ready for the next one.”
The only bright spot for New York came in the sixth inning, when Patrick Mazeika, who came in to replace McNeil, got his first Major League hit with a home run off reliever Diego Castillo.
“We just had a really good series against a Mets team that was coming in pretty hot. They're a balanced team. They've done well. Their bullpen has been outstanding,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “What we did was, we did a nice job of not allowing their bullpen to play a major role by getting leads early enough in the game where they could pivot and shift to those guys, because it's a pretty tough bunch to find success with."
The Mets now go to Atlanta to play a three-game series against the Braves. After Conforto and McNeil went down, the Mets were left with one bench player, catcher Tomás Nido. Rojas believes the Mets’ front office will get the depth that the team needs to compete with the Braves.
“There are going to be more conversations. We are moving to the National League game again,” Rojas said. "There are going to be some moving parts, and we are going to need that depth.”