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 manager Luis Rojas’ injury-riddled squad also has played the fewest games in baseball
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.
Hendricks worked six innings of two-hit ball, while striking out seven, to post his seventh straight win following a 2-4 start.
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 had gushed about deGrom after similarly following the two-time Cy Young winner’s lead with 6 ¹/₃ innings of one-run ball last Saturday in a win over the Padres.
“He’s truly the best of our generation, and I think he’ll be the best to ever do it once it’s all said and done,” Stroman told reporters after that game. “Jake’s the man. … I’m just trying to learn as much as I can from him.”
Stroman was tagged for a one-out single by Bryant in the first inning Thursday, and Baez followed by clobbering a two-run blast into the Home Run Apple enclosure beyond the center-field wall for his 16th 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. Kevin Pillar also made a leaping grab at the wall in center to rob Pederson of a potential home run in the fifth.
Only one Mets batter advanced as far as third base during Hendricks’ six innings, with Alonso getting there on James McCann’s double-play grounder with two runners aboard. 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 for the Cubs after Hendricks departed without the Mets mustering another hit.