Marcus Stroman, Mets aim to avert sweep by Rays

MLB

New York Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman is looking to keep his club from being swept.

The right-hander gets the nod in Sunday’s series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla. The teams will play their second straight matinee after Tampa Bay recorded a 12-5 rout of the Mets on Saturday afternoon.

With his bullpen having tossed 7 1/3 innings in the first two defeats and allowing 12 earned runs and 16 hits, Mets manager Luis Rojas hopes Stroman (3-3, 2.01 ERA) can go deeper in the third game against the American League East club.

That shouldn’t be a problem for Stroman in his second season in Queens after the Mets extended him with a one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer in November.

New York acquired the Medford, N.Y., native from the Toronto Blue Jays for top pitching prospects Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson on July 28, 2019.

After a torn calf muscle hampered him in spring training last season, Stroman ultimately opted out in the final year of his contract when baseball resumed in the summer. That left the Mets with the possibility that they had traded away two prized arms for just 11 starts by the 2019 AL All-Star.

Stroman produced right away this season with a trio of wins and an 0.90 ERA over his first three starts. Teammate Michael Conforto said the 5-foot-7 hurler’s presence in the clubhouse is a good influence.

“Just his attitude, the ultimate confidence in himself and I think that can be contagious sometimes,” Conforto said.

In 14 career starts against the Rays, Stroman is 5-6 with a 4.35 ERA. Tampa Bay has batted .327 against him.

The Rays batted around twice on Saturday and rallied from a 4-1 deficit to run away from New York.

Joey Wendle had three doubles and notched his fourth career four-hit game. Yandy Diaz and Randy Arozarena each recorded three hits in the club’s 15-hit attack.

“We got a lot of contributions from top to bottom,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

A good part of Tampa Bay’s success has been the development of catcher Mike Zunino.

Zunino, 30, shares the team lead in home runs with Austin Meadows, with each owning eight. Zunino has gone deep six times in his last 17 games, but their length is what is turning the heads of fans and having them stare deep into the stands.

According to Statcast, three of Zunino’s rockets have traveled at least 450 feet, the most in the majors.

He barreled up a 472-foot blast Tuesday off the Yankees’ Jordan Montgomery and added a 450-foot shot into the upper deck off the Mets’ David Peterson to put the Rays on the board Friday night, igniting their dramatic 3-2 win.

Left-hander Josh Fleming (2-3, 2.73) will attempt to complete the sweep on Sunday. He is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in one career relief appearance against the Mets.

Tampa Bay activated Ji-Man Choi before Saturday’s game. To make room on the 40-man roster for the South Korean first baseman, they traded reliever Hunter Strickland to the Los Angeles Angels.

The righty Strickland was 0-0 with a 1.69 ERA over 13 appearances in his first season with the organization.

He recorded 16 strikeouts in 16 innings pitched, with opposing batters hitting .233 against him.

–Field Level Media

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