Marcus Stroman pitched well, but came up on the short end of a 2-0 loss to Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs Thursday night at Citi Field.
The Mets’ pitching exploits, and a few unlikely contributions, have fronted them to a first-place breakout in the National League East so far this season, largely covering up for one of the lowest-scoring offenses in Major League Baseball.
Kyle Hendricks and three relievers combined on a two-hitter to send the Mets to their fourth shutout loss of the season on Thursday night, this one 2-0, as the Cubs avoided a four-game sweep this week with the victory at Citi Field.
Only the Pirates, with 227 runs, have plated fewer than the Mets’ 233 this season, although Luis Rojas’ injury-riddled squad also has played the fewest games in baseball.
“Today it just didn’t happen,” Rojas said after the Mets completed a 5-2 homestand against two NL playoff hopefuls, the Padres and the Cubs. “This was a tough one. All losses are tough, but we’re playing pretty good baseball.
“Now, after the homestand, facing two good teams, we’re not surprised that we’re playing pretty good from a defensive standpoint, from a pitching standpoint. … Tonight, our timely hitting just wasn’t there.”
Marcus Stroman spotted the Cubs two runs just three batters and five pitches into the game — on a Javy Baez two-run home run — but the right-hander rebounded, and departed trailing 2-0 after seven strong innings. The Long Island product completed at least six frames for the eighth consecutive start, bumping his team-best total to 84 ¹/₃ innings over 14 starts.
“Mechanically, I was a little off in the first, and I have to be better,” Stroman said. “I think if I come out there and put up a zero, I think that gives our offense a bit more momentum. … So that one’s on me tonight.”
Hendricks worked six innings of two-hit ball, while striking out seven, to post his seventh straight win following a 2-4 start.
“He did what he does. Nibbler, can work at the bottom of the zone and then he tries to make you follow him further down,” Rojas said. “He was playing that game with us. As good as he pitched against us, we just didn’t come up big.”
Before the game, the Mets (35-26) received what Rojas described as “encouraging news” on ace Jacob deGrom, who played catch after an MRI exam came back “normal” on the right shoulder soreness he experienced during an abridged three-inning outing Wednesday night.
The 30-year-old Stroman was tagged for a one-out single by Kris Bryant in the first inning, and Baez followed by clobbering a two-run blast into the Home Run Apple enclosure beyond the center-field wall for his 16th homer of the season and a quick 2-0 hole for the Mets.
The Cubs reached Stroman (6-5, 2.34) for just two more hits through the seventh, however: a bloop double to shallow left against the shift by Joc Pederson leading off the third and a one-out single by Jason Heyward one inning later.
Stroman finished with eight strikeouts and retired the final 11 batters he faced after Heyward reached, culminated by first baseman Pete Alonso’s diving stop on Sergio Alcantara’s smash to end the seventh.
Only one Mets batter, Alonso, advanced as far as third base, getting there on James McCann’s double-play grounder with two runners aboard in the fourth. But Billy McKinney was thrown out on a tapper in front of the plate for the third out.
Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera and Craig Kimbrel (19th save) recorded the final nine outs, after Hendricks departed, without the Mets mustering another hit.
The Mets, despite having 17 consecutive batters retired from the fourth through the ninth innings, left for Friday’s series opener in Washington with a positive outlook about their completed homestand.
“I think it just reassures the strength of this group. I think we’re unbelievable,” Stroman said. “We’re in a great vibe here. Losses don’t really affect us … and once we start getting these guys back healthy, I feel like we should really take off.”
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Peter Botte