The Pirates scored four unanswered runs against the Mets pitching staff and, as has been the case far too often this season, the Amazin’s offense fell short in their 6-2 loss to Pittsburgh in Game 1 of a straight doubleheader on Saturday at Citi Field.
At least the Mets could look forward to rookie pitcher Tylor Megill taking the hill in Game 2, because they continued their trend of winning every time he starts in their 4-2 victory over the Bucs. Megill pitched a solid, though short, outing against Pittsburgh across 3.2 innings and 85 pitches. He tied a franchise record with 26 strikeouts in his first four career starts and again gave the Mets reason to believe he can be a dependable starter at the back end of their rotation while Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard continue rehabbing.
Megill said he was a little frustrated after coming out of his start without finishing the fourth inning, but Mets pitching coach Jeremy Hefner encouraged the rookie by telling him, in part: “You’re going to be here for a long time. We’re going to work the kinks out.”
“My goal coming into this season was to finish here, but I never expected it to come this early,” said Megill, who made eight starts between Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Syracuse before getting called up. “So it was quite a surprise when it all happened. But I’m going about it each day with a positive attitude. Trying to improve each time I go out.”
The Mets (47-39) split their sixth straight doubleheader following a win in the nightcap, secured by Edwin Diaz with his 19th save of the season. Diaz struck out the side on 10 pitches in a dominant performance from the ‘pen. He elicited five swings and misses, and his last pitch was a 100-mph fastball at the top of the zone. The Mets closer is 19-for-20 in save opportunities in what should’ve been an All-Star season for him, but Josh Hader, Craig Kimbrel, Mark Melancon and Alex Reyes were named to the NL roster instead.
“For me, this is the best outing I’ve seen him have as a Met, just watching Edwin pitch here for three years,” Rojas said. “He was lights out.”
Even though the Mets scored first against the basement-dwelling Pirates in Game 1, they couldn’t find consistency at the plate to overcome the three earned runs Marcus Stroman (6-7, 2.75 ERA) gave up in his 18th outing of the year. Stroman finished his first half of the regular season with 98.1 innings under him and avoided the injured list when every other starter went down with an ailment.
“I didn’t pitch at all last year,” said Stroman, who opted out of the 2020 season for COVID-related concerns. “To come into this year and to be at close to 100 innings before the break, that’s extremely accomplishing for me and that just shows the work ethic that went into this offseason. I’m feeling healthy, still.
“I’m looking forward to this break to rest with my trainer, attack some things and get back out there on the mound.”
Pitcher on pitcher crime shifted the momentum in the Bucs’ favor in Game 1. Opposing starter Tyler Anderson took Stroman deep for a hard-hit, two-out solo shot to right-center in the fifth inning. That was Stroman’s 10th home run allowed this season, and it broke a tied game to give the Pirates a 3-2 lead. Trevor May gave up a two-run homer in the fifth, and Drew Smith was charged with a run in the sixth to bury any chances of a late-inning comeback for the Mets.
Stroman began his start by retiring the first nine batters he faced, with a huge assist from center fielder Brandon Nimmo, who robbed a home run from Brian Reynolds in the first inning. The ground-ball pitcher was solid until John Nogowski’s two-run double opened the scoring for the Pirates in the fourth.
Stroman has gone five innings or fewer in three straight starts, though only his three-inning outing against the Phillies on June 27 was not part of a doubleheader. He attributed his recent string of lopsided starts, in part, to his minor hip impingement last month that knocked him out of a start after just five batters faced. “My body felt a little off the last three or four starts,” he said. “I think these next 6-7 days that I have off will be incredible for my body as far as recovery.”
Mets manager Luis Rojas said the Mets offense lacked good sequencing at the plate. Mets batters, including Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor who combined to go 0-for-6 in Game 1, were unable to build momentum. The team’s Game 1 loss was not on Stroman, Rojas said.
“I thought he threw the ball well,” Rojas said. “Just luck factor blended with two extra-base hits, pitches that were over the heart of the plate. You can single it out to probably two mistakes that happen in a game, and they basically took advantage.”