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Marcus Stroman enthusiastically clapped at fans as he jogged in from the Citi Field bullpen, and they responded in kind. It was as good as Saturday afternoon would get for the right-hander and the Mets.
The second pitch Stroman threw wound up being hit into the right-field corner, a single badly misplayed by Michael Conforto that enabled Josh Harrison to wind up on third. It was an omen for the hours to follow, as the Mets flushed all the positive vibes from Jacob deGrom’s masterpiece Friday night.
Stroman didn’t have it, his defense didn’t help him, and the Mets lost to the Nationals, 7-1 at Citi Field in front of 8,051. Their fourth defeat in five games pushed the Mets back to .500 at 8-8.
After having been so good in his first three starts, Stroman’s command was off this time. He walked consecutive hitters in the second inning and allowed opposing pitcher Joe Ross to drive in a run with a two-out single in the second. Stroman was tagged for two more runs in the third and another in the fourth, before he was given the hook.
That continued a recent trend of Mets starters — other than deGrom —struggling. Take out the two-time Cy Young award winner, and the last four Mets starters have failed to reach the fifth inning after a strong beginning to the young season.
Over four innings, Stroman allowed eight hits, five runs (four earned), walked two and struck out four. He failed to put up a zero in any of his frames, and allowed more runs in this outing than his previous three starts combined.
Conforto got the Mets on the board in the fourth, hitting the right-field foul pole for his first home run of the season. They had a chance to get closer. J.D. Davis and Jeff McNeil followed with consecutive singles, but James McCann swung at ball four twice, then popped up weakly to shortstop to end the threat, the one time there was any energy in the building all game.
Four batters into the fifth, the Nationals had the run back. In his Mets debut, reliever Stephen Tarpley failed to retire a hitter. He walked Josh Bell, allowed a check-swing single to Kyle Schwarber, then hit Alex Avila with a pitch to force in a run. It was 7-1 by the end of the inning and the rout was on, another game in which the Mets’ offense went limp.
It was the ninth game in 16 contests in which the Mets scored three runs or fewer. They are 2-7 in such games.
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