NEW YORK -- For more than a month now, the Mets have waited (somewhat) patiently for the Marcus Stroman they thought they acquired before the July 31 Trade Deadline to arrive. At the time, the deal for Stroman signaled a real push for the Mets to contend in 2019. With Stroman filling out their rotation, the Mets -- even self-defined “underdogs” as they were -- would have a strong chance to win every night.
But Stroman has not always put them in prime position to win; to the contrary, the Mets have lost each of his last three starts, including Saturday’s 5-0 defeat to the Phillies at Citi Field. In seven outings since joining the Mets, Stroman has yet to submit a scoreless outing or record an out in the seventh inning of a game. His ERA with the team is 5.05, compared to 2.96 in his 21 starts for the Blue Jays this year.
“I just need to be better, to be honest with you,” Stroman said. “No one puts more pressure on me than myself so I’m extremely frustrated and kind of angered.”
Stroman allowed a season-high 10 hits in Saturday’s loss, including four during a four-run rally in the fourth. After J.D. Davis committed an inning-opening fielding error, Stroman gave up hits to four of the next five batters he faced, including a two-run double to Corey Dickerson. Cesar Hernandez also hit a leadoff homer off Stroman, who lasted merely four innings.
The Mets did not perform nearly so well against Phillies left-hander Drew Smyly, who held them to four hits over seven shutout innings, sending Stroman to his second straight losing decision.
“I’ve been through plenty of rough patches in my career, and I feel like I’m always able to come out on the other side,” Stroman said. “At the end of the day, 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.”
To do so, Mets manager Mickey Callaway said, Stroman must focus on generating outs earlier in at-bats. But Stroman’s escalating pitch counts have more to do with the sheer number of hits he’s allowing -- 48 in seven starts with the Mets, tied for second-most in the Majors over that stretch -- than anything else. The outlying number on the back of Stroman’s baseball card is his batting average on balls in play, which has jumped from .293 with the Blue Jays to .387 with the Mets. Lowering that may be a matter of luck more than anything, but as of yet his luck hasn’t turned.
“He obviously has elite talent,” Callaway said. “He’s done it before. He will. He just needs to find it right now.”
“He’s going to be good, because he is the guy he was before he got here,” said catcher Tomas Nido, whom the Mets started behind the plate Saturday in an effort to help Stroman find his groove. “I don’t think this changes anything.”
Nido referenced the adjustment period between leagues, which is not unusual for traded players. Still, Stroman might have hoped his adjustment would have taken a bit quicker. It did not go unnoticed in Flushing that Anthony Kay, one of the prospects the Mets traded to acquire Stroman, struck out eight Saturday in a successful big league debut for the Blue Jays. That sort of thing would smart a bit less if Stroman were also pitching well.
“I definitely wanted to come out hot here and I haven’t, so it’s definitely frustrating,” Stroman said. “I put some pretty good starts together early in the year and I just haven’t been myself here. I’m never one to get discouraged. I’m going to do everything in my power to work it out, and get back to being who I am.”