Stro Show on display in Colorado during victory

Alonso reclaims MLB lead with 48th homer amid Mets' 3-HR 6th

September 18th, 2019

DENVER -- Upon lasting just four innings against the Phillies earlier this month, failing to deliver a quality start for the sixth time in seven tries since joining the Mets, defined himself as “extremely frustrated and kind of angry."

“I definitely wanted to come out hot here, and I haven’t,” Stroman said that night. “I just haven’t been myself here.”

What Stroman wanted to show the Mets is the version of himself that he put on display Tuesday at Coors Field, striking out seven Rockies over seven scoreless innings of a 6-1 Mets win. Perhaps it even signaled the forming of a trend; the outing was not only Stroman’s longest and best in nine starts as a Met, but it came five days after his previous longest and best.

“I compete,” Stroman said. “I battle. I just felt like I had everything rolling.”

Never did Stroman sweat much in this one. He allowed just four hits, retiring 13 of the first 15 batters that he faced while leaning more heavily on his cut fastball than in any previous start. Stroman punctuated his outing with a 91.3 mph cutter that Raimel Tapia swung through below the zone in the seventh, sparking a strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out double play to end his night.

It was only an inning earlier that the Mets gave Stroman his first lead, when Amed Rosario, Brandon Nimmo and Pete Alonso all homered during a four-run rally off Rockies starter Tim Melville. Alonso’s long ball was his Major League-leading 48th, putting him on pace for 51 in his rookie season. And that was all Stroman needed.

“This is what I’ve seen from him in the past,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said of his starter, who owns a 0.68 ERA his last two outings. “It’s keeping the ball down. It’s executing pitches, pitch after pitch. That’s a good lineup and a tough place to pitch.”

If this is indeed a renaissance in the making for Stroman, consider that one less thing for the Mets to worry about heading into this winter. Although the Mets hoped Stroman might spark them to a postseason berth in 2019, they always viewed him more as a piece for 2020 -- a readymade rotation replacement for Zack Wheeler, who stands a strong chance of leaving via free agency. Unlike Wheeler, Stroman is under team control for another season.

He is also, when right, one of baseball’s better pitchers. Prior to joining the Mets, Stroman produced a 3.76 ERA over 5 1/2 seasons in Toronto, including a 2.96 mark in 21 starts this year.

When Stroman arrived in New York, the Mets did not make any wholesale changes to his delivery or pitch mix, though his early struggles did prompt both him and the club to begin tinkering a bit. Between starts, pitching coach Phil Regan encouraged Stroman to throw a few more pitches off the mound as a way to lock in his “feel” for his delivery. During Tuesday’s start, Stroman “figured something out with my cutter,” using his mechanics and grip to increase or decrease the break of it as he saw fit. Given newfound confidence in the pitch, Stroman threw a season-high 42 cutters, mixing them with 33 sinkers that broke in the opposite direction.

“I’m excited going forward,” Stroman said. “I felt like I could throw my sinker or cutter in any point to anybody, and I feel like they’re good pitches when I’m keeping them down in the zone.”

Combined with the Cubs’ loss to the Reds, the win moved the Mets back to within four games of a National League Wild Card berth with 11 games to play. Several Mets acknowledged late Tuesday that surpassing both the Cubs and Brewers may require the Mets to win all 11.

As long as they’re not mathematically eliminated, they’re going to try.

“Going forward,” Rosario said, “we have to win every single game that we play to be in a good spot.”