Marcus Stroman living up to Mets’ hurried No. 2 expectations behind Jacob deGrom this season

Marcus Stroman Mets
Marcus Stroman
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Naturally, there had been some concern revolving around the New York Mets’ starting rotation entering the 2021 season when it was announced that Carlos Carrasco would be shelved until May with a torn hamstring.

The veteran righty acquired alongside Francisco Lindor from the Cleveland Indians was slated to be the Mets’ No. 2 starter behind Jacob deGrom within a unit that was already shorthanded with Noah Syndergaard finishing up his rehab from Tommy John surgery undergone last year. 

It placed an exorbitant amount of focus on Marcus Stroman, after opting out for the entire 2020 season and entering a contract year, to be a true No. 2 arm behind staff ace Jacob deGrom to keep the rotation afloat before further reinforcements arrive. 

He’s done just that. 

The 29-year-old right-hander lowered his ERA to 0.90 on the season while improving to 3-0 on Sunday after allowing just one run on three hits over eight innings of work while striking out five and walking just one. 

“I always love going deep into games,” Stroman said. “So going into the eighth, ninth, seventh, that is something I honestly want to do each and every start. Give the bullpen a break as well as keep my team in position to win super-late into games.”

His recipe for success is almost the polar opposite of deGrom’s, who simply overwhelms the opposition with a historic arsenal that features a fastball averaging 99 mph. Stroman, though, is at his best when he keeps his stuff low in the zone to induce soft contact and a plethora of ground balls. 

That’s exactly what happened on Sunday.

“Right now he’s really confident in inducing contact,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “That is what he did in the first two [starts] and that is why he got to the eighth inning. We were confident enough that he was going back there and he was going to face at least the first three batters.”

“I don’t change my game plan much,” Stroman added. “I think because I throw an elite sinker, I think I do a good job of being able to keep the ball on the ground no matter what park I go to.”

His hot start has created quite the dynamic duo alongside deGrom, who has been dominant over his first three starts of the season with a 0.45 ERA with 35 strikeouts in 20 innings of work; while potentially achieving something that has been seldom seen in Queens.

Entering this season, the Mets have only had five starting pitchers in franchise history post an ERA of under 1.00 in at least 20 innings of work through April — the first full month of the season: Al Leiter in 2002 (0.92 in 39.0 IP), Frank Viola in 1991 (0.86 in 31.1 IP), Mike Pelfrey (0.69 in 26.0 IP), Nolan Ryan (0.69 in 26.0 IP), and Tom Seaver (0.38 in 24.0 IP).

Both deGrom and Stroman could add their names to that exclusive list with at least two more starts to go this month.