Marcus Stroman is a ground ball king and Mets get first win of the season

Similarly to Monday night, the Mets got six dominant starter innings followed by shaky bullpen work on Tuesday, but this time the recipe resulted in a win thanks to better offensive production and Philadelphia’s Vince Velasquez throwing fewer than half of his 40 pitches for strikes.

Marcus Stroman was a ground ball machine, recording 13 ground outs and zero fly outs with just three hits allowed. In fact, since two of those hits were ground balls, that means that Didi Gregorius’s home run in the bottom of the fourth was the only fair ball hit into the air against Stroman all game.

The Mets jumped in front 2-0 in the top of the fourth on Dominic Smith’s first home run of the season. However, the game was really won the seventh when Velasquez, after striking out the side in the sixth in relief of Chase Anderson, walked four out of five batters to force in a run. New York kept doing damage after Brandon Kintzler came in, getting a loud sac fly from Francisco Lindor and a two-out RBI double by Michael Conforto to extend the lead to 6-1.

Instead of cruising to an easy win, though, we got to experience the weirdness of the Mets bullpen for the second straight night. Luis Rojas once again went with Miguel Castro and Trevor May after both pitched on Monday to mixed results. This time, Castro struck out his first two batters before letting up three straight hits, including an RBI single by Rhys Hoskins. With two on and two out, it was interesting to see Rojas leave Castro in to face Bryce Harper instead of going to Aaron Loup again. Castro just barely proved his manager right, as Harper hit a hard fly ball to the left-center field gap, but Brandon Nimmo ran it down to end the inning with just one run in.

In the eighth, May allowed both Didi Gregorius and Jean Segura to reach on ground-ball singles, but he buckled down and struck out both Brad Miller and Roman Quinn with his fastball. Pete Alonso gave the Mets a six-run lead in the ninth with a two-run home run, and that proved to be a blessing because Jeurys Familia is still a roller coaster ride.

Adam Hasely and Hoskins led of the frame with hits, and Hasely scored a meaningless run when Hoskins stupidly stretched his single into a double for no reason, which caused Alonso throw from shallow right field to go awry. Familia’s biggest crime, though, was walking Harper when he wasn’t even able to tie the game. At that point, you’d rather just have Familia let Harper hit one to the moon, because it has the same effect as a walk in the ninth innings. Anyway, the Phillies got one more run on a ground out, but Familia closed out the game to give the Mets their first win of the season, 8-4.

It was nice that Rojas didn’t need to use Edwin Diaz, yet, but this game just raises questions about the effectiveness of the Mets bullpen, which allowed seven hits in three innings after Stroman let up just three in six innings. Castro, May, and Familia are supposed to be the guys who lock things down in the sixth and beyond, so if we can’t count on them, it’s going to be a very long season.

Still, I’m freaking hyped for this rubber game at 4:05 p.m. today. It’s David Peterson against Aaron Nola, so the Mets will be playing the underdog role for the first time in 2021.

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