Marcus Stroman wasn’t at his sharpest in the opener of a doubleheader split against the Nationals on Saturday, but the right-hander did flash his tremendous athletic ability as the Mets pulled out an 11-9 win in which they blew a 9-0 lead.
The Mets gave Stroman immediate run support, plating seven runs through the first three innings while the Nationals struggled in the field. Stroman had given up two singles, a double and walked one heading into the bottom of the third, when he made a highlight-reel play that many pitchers wouldn’t even dream of attempting.
After getting the first out, Stroman walked Nationals star right fielder Juan Soto. With the Mets’ infield shifted to the right, Washington first baseman Josh Bell followed the walk with a hard-hit ball to shortstop Francisco Lindor (playing to the right of second base), who flipped it to third baseman Jonathan Villar covering second. But Villar bobbled it and Soto bolted to an uncovered third base.
Stroman then had the instincts to sprint to third, take a throw from second baseman Javier Baez and tag up Soto on a diving play for the second out of the inning. Yadiel Hernandez ended the third with a groundout to Stroman.
“I was stuck on the mound watching, I thought it was one of those inning-ending double plays,” Stroman said after the win and before their 4-3 loss in the nightcap. “As Soto broke, I thought for a second, I think I can beat him. Right in that moment I took off. And Javy threw a perfect lead pass. And I dove and got him. It was a pretty special play. I didn’t realize how cool it looked until I watched it afterward.”
The hustle play served as a reminder that Stroman won the Gold Glove in 2017 while with the Blue Jays.
To start the fourth inning, Stroman gave up three straight hits, including a shot back at him that he lost sight of to load the bases with no outs. The 30-year-old continued struggling to find the strike zone, walking Andrew Stevenson into a force run for the Nationals’ first of the game to make it 9-1.
Sacrifice flies from Lane Thomas and Alcides Escobar pulled Washington within six before Soto grounded out to end the inning. Stroman had a 1-2-3 fifth, finishing his 29th start of the season by giving up six hits, three earned runs, three walks and striking out two.
The Mets’ bullpen of Miguel Castro, Brad Hand and Seth Lugo later combined to give up six runs in the sixth and seventh innings to force extras. Lindor’s two-run homer in the top of the ninth ultimately secured the Mets’ sixth straight win.
Stroman has stepped up for the Mets in the absence of ace Jacob deGrom, who still does not have an official date for his return after being shut down from throwing because of right forearm tightness and elbow swelling.
Since deGrom’s last outing on July 7, Stroman has pitched to a 2.93 ERA in 11 starts. He has posted a 9-12 record so far this season with 126 strikeouts and a 1.15 WHIP.