NEW YORK -- The New York Mets figured Marcus Stroman could be the final piece of the best rotation in baseball.
The club opted to build on their greatest strength at the deadline in trading for Stroman, but his turn in the rotation has been a speed bump throughout his first month with the club.
Stroman hasn’t made a quality start in five chances with New York. He exited all but one of his outings, including Tuesday night’s 5-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field, with the Mets behind on the scoreboard.
“I’m sure he’s frustrated,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “He keeps on battling, keeps on fighting.”
His slow start didn’t stop the then-red-hot Mets from winning each of Stroman’s first four starts. But their fourth consecutive loss Tuesday night was a bleak reminder of what could happen when he can’t be bailed out by his offense.
“I think I need to be better,” Stroman said. “I thought I was throwing the ball pretty well, I just made bad pitches in big moments.”
Stroman gave up a pair of two-run shots to Addison Russell and Javier Baez. They were the fourth and fifth homers Stroman has allowed in 25.2 total innings with the Mets.
“It's a small sample. That's all it is,” he said. “I know who I am, and I'll start to get in a groove here and dominate.”
Before getting to the Mets, Stroman hadn’t allowed a homer in 55.1 innings away from the Rogers Centre. He gave up 10 total dingers in 124.2 innings with the Blue Jays -- all of which came in 69.1 innings in Toronto.
At the time before the trade, the 10 homers were tied with Max Scherzer, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Charlie Morton for the least allowed among pitchers with at least 120 innings.
Stroman was not alarmed by his recent issues with the long ball. But his career 59 percent ground ball rate entering Tuesday highlight those home run mistakes. When the ball is getting hit in the air, his plan is not being executed.
“I've had spurts where I've been great, I've had spurts where I've kind of been off a bit, but I adapt and I change better than most,” he said. “So back to the drawing board, and I'm looking forward to my next outing.”
His homer problem has existed within just a month, but trade deadline acquisitions don’t have much wiggle room. He only had about 10 starts left to make in 2019 -- a window in which the Mets felt they were in contention, which is a big reason why they brought him into the fold. Now five of those starts have passed, and he has a 4.91 ERA with his new club.
Prior to Russell’s fifth-inning blast, Stroman flashed some of his brightest stuff. He finished with eight outs on the ground and struck out seven, his second-highest total with the Mets.
“My stuff has felt good, to be honest, overall,” Stroman said. “It's just a matter of buckling down and being better when I need to be better in those key moments.”
Wilson Ramos, who has caught each of Stroman’s starts since the trade, made note of the proper execution early on, but pointed to some mistakes over the middle of the plate, a pattern which isn’t exclusive to Stroman.
“When he comes and he hits the corners he has good success,” Ramos told Yahoo Sports. “He made a couple mistakes in the middle of the zone, to get those hits but it happens in this game.”
The homers were Baez’s 29th and Russell’s eighth and accounted for all of the Cubs’ runs against Stroman. Baez went 3-for-3 in the game, including a second-inning double which he tried to stretch to a triple before being thrown out by shortstop Amed Rosario.
Jason Vargas was the odd-man out in the Mets rotation after the Mets traded for Stroman at the deadline. He was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies -- a division rival that currently sits a game ahead of the Mets in the standings -- and has since put together a 4.34 ERA in 29 innings.
Stroman’s first five starts probably haven’t caused the Mets to regret their moves at the deadline, but they’ve likely fallen short of expectations.
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