Marcus Stroman

Scott Kingery saves the day — takeaways from Phillies' exciting win over Mets

Scott Kingery saves the day — takeaways from Phillies' exciting win over Mets

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When the Phillies' starting pitcher gave up one run on Friday night, the bullpen allowed 10.

When the Phillies' starting pitcher gave up one run on Sunday night, the bullpen blew another late lead but was picked up by Scott Kingery.

It appeared that so, too, was manager Gabe Kapler after an apparent questionable, costly decision to pull a locked-in Zach Eflin after seven innings and 84 pitches.

That decision made a little more sense after hearing from Eflin postgame. The right-hander said his arm felt fine but that he had been dealing with oblique tightness in recent days and it crept back up in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

"I respect the decision Kap made," Eflin said. "Arm felt great at 84 pitches. Going into my next outing, I'm hoping for no limitations."

The Phils avoided a sweep with the 5-2 win on Sunday Night Baseball. Kingery delivered the night's biggest moment, a bases-clearing double with one out in the eighth off Jeurys Familia after Cesar Hernandez was intentionally walked ahead of him. The Phillies, struggling for two months with runners in scoring position, had stranded a man in scoring position with no outs the previous inning. Huge spot.

"This year, having been through it, it helps a lot," Kingery said of the mental approach to those high-leverage spots. "Probably put too much pressure on myself last year."

September began with a win but the Phillies will need to play worlds better than they did this weekend to remain in the wild-card race. They are 70-65 and on an 84-win pace, as they've been nearly every day for a month.

1. Updated playoff picture

The Phillies' win Sunday coupled with the Cubs' loss trimmed the deficit to 2½ games back of the second wild-card spot. The Cubs lost two in a row to the Brewers this weekend.

The Phils are a half-game ahead of the Brewers and 1½ games ahead of the Mets and Diamondbacks.

September schedules could play a large role in deciding this thing. The Cubs play 15 games against teams with losing records in the final month. The Phillies play seven — the first four in Cincinnati and the final three at home against the Marlins.

2. Stroman so-so so far

Eflin outdueled Marcus Stroman, the Mets' trade deadline prize. Stroman pitched well in this game but has not overall in a Mets uniform. He's made six starts with New York and has a 4.55 ERA with a 1.64 WHIP. He's been hittable, and he's surprisingly allowed six home runs already after surrendering just 10 in 21 starts with the Blue Jays. Unexpected considering Stroman was traded to the lesser offensive league and from a hitter's park to a pitcher's park.

The Mets traded two of their top pitching prospects, Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson, to acquire Stroman from Toronto. They could prove to be two significant pieces. 

Stroman found success earlier this season in some ways that looked unsustainable. His strand rate and opponents' batting average with men on base were both much better than the league average. Those numbers don't always regress but tend to over a full season. Stroman's ERA indicators have been about a half-run higher than his actual ERA most of the year.

3. Eflin efficient again

Two starts in a row, Eflin has been through six innings in under 80 pitches. On Sunday night, he encountered trouble in only one inning, the fourth. 

Five of Eflin's seven innings were 1-2-3. He allowed a solo home run to Pete Alonso in the first inning — hard to believe but Alonso's only homer and only RBI in 10 games at Citizens Bank Park this season — and put three men on base in the fourth but got a double-play ball.

Eflin has allowed three runs over 13 innings in his last two starts. These are the best back-to-back outings he's had since June 12 and June 19. Eflin is at his best when he's pitching the way he is now, generating early outs on the ground with his sinker. 

Eflin would be a more complete pitcher with a more consistent four-seam fastball, but if he has to use that pitch sparingly to get deeper into games, so be it given the current state of the Phillies' rotation.

Kapler pinch-hit for Eflin in the seventh inning of a one-run game. Eflin was at only 84 pitches but Kapler went with offense after Adam Haseley opened the seventh with a double. Jay Bruce grounded out and the Phillies ultimately stranded Haseley at third.

4. More professional ABs from Dickerson

What do you know, another multi-hit game from Corey Dickerson. He doubled to begin the bottom of the first and hit a two-out, RBI single to put the Phillies ahead in the second.

Dickerson has 25 RBI in 24 games as a Phillie, is hitting over .300 and has gone 12 for 34 (.353) with runners in scoring position. He uses all fields, can handle the ball low, high, inside or outside, and so far has even been a pleasant surprise vs. lefties.

Now, the Phillies are off to Cincinnati. Here are the pitching probables:

Monday afternoon at 2:10 — LHP Drew Smyly (2-6, 6.95) vs. Anthony DeSclafani (9-7, 4.05)

Tuesday night at 6:40 — Vince Velasquez (6-7, 4.86) vs. LHP Alex Wood (1-3, 5.80)

Wednesday night at 6:40 — Aaron Nola (12-4, 3.45) vs. TBA

Thursday afternoon at 12:35 — LHP Jason Vargas (6-7, 4.31) vs. TBA.

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Trades of Trevor Bauer, Marcus Stroman have added interesting wrinkle to MLB trade deadline

Trades of Trevor Bauer, Marcus Stroman have added interesting wrinkle to MLB trade deadline

Between the trade of Marcus Stroman to the Mets earlier this week and the reported three-team swap Tuesday night sending Trevor Bauer to the Cincinnati Reds, a new wrinkle has been added to the MLB trade deadline.

We're not seeing teams buy or sell. We're seeing some teams do both.

It's not the first time this has happened — the Pirates bought and sold as recently as last season, acquiring Chris Archer and Keone Kela ahead of the deadline despite remote chances of contending — but it's new to see the top available players traded to teams thinking exclusively about the future.

Stroman and Bauer are both under contract for 2020. Both are set for free agency after the 2020 season. The Mets and Reds are putting a lot of faith into them to help lead them to the playoffs. With the amount of money Bauer, in particular, is likely to get, you wonder whether a mid-market franchise like the Reds can keep him long-term.

It's not illogical for the Reds or Mets to be thinking about 2020. Stroman is one of the two best groundball-pitchers in the majors (Dallas Keuchel being the other), and Bauer is perhaps just as good as Gerrit Cole, a pending free agent who could get a $200 million contract this offseason. The Mets and Reds jumped ahead of other teams who wanted to add pitching on July 31 and they jumped ahead of teams who wanted to add pitching this winter. The Mets gave up two pitching prospects, and the Reds gave up Yasiel Puig and top outfield prospect Taylor Trammell.

Now, the Mets and Diamondbacks seem to hold all the cards in the trade market for starting pitching. The Mets have Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler; the D-backs have Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray. Madison Bumgarner and Mike Minor are the two other big names out there.

The Reds have two other starting pitchers, veteran lefty Alex Wood and righty Tanner Roark, who have been connected to the Phillies, could be acquired inexpensively and figure to be moved ahead of the deadline.

The trade deadline is Wednesday at 4 p.m.

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So many questions to ask about Mets' surprise trade for Marcus Stroman

So many questions to ask about Mets' surprise trade for Marcus Stroman

Marcus Stroman has started against the Phillies just once in his career, pitching a seven-inning gem in June 2016. 

He figures to face them many more times following Sunday’s trade. Stroman was dealt from the Blue Jays to the Mets in exchange for two of New York’s top pitching prospects. 

It was a surprising move by the Mets, whose interesting trade deadline path we explored 24 hours earlier. Which trade(s) the Mets make next will go a long way in determining the logic and value of this Stroman acquisition, at least initially. 

First-year GM Brodie Van Wagenen is not finished. One or both of Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard figure to be traded. So do one or both of Todd Frazier and lefty starter Jason Vargas. Frazier is a free agent at the end of the season and Vargas is owed $8 million next season before becoming a free agent. 

Syndergaard tweeted this shortly after the Stroman trade went down. 

Reactions were mixed. Some questioned a package headed back to Toronto that was perceived to be light. Some acknowledged this was the best the Blue Jays could do in a trade market where so many front offices think the same way, have similar valuations of veterans and cling more dearly to their prospects than ever before. 

As with most trades like this, a proper judgment can’t be formed for several years. 

The bigger question now is: What are the Mets trying to accomplish?

This was not a move made to lead them to the 2019 playoffs. It is about the future. Stroman offers the Mets protection in their rotation if/when they lose Wheeler and Vargas and in case they receive an offer for Syndergaard they cannot refuse. In that regard, it makes sense. It’s forward-thinking. You need more than Jacob deGrom and four question marks in the rotation. The Phillies have learned that painful lesson this season with Aaron Nola and little else of real value in the starting staff. 

Stroman is a very good pitcher in the tier below “ace.” He is a contact pitcher, albeit one who generates a ton of weak contact on the ground. In the year of the home run, he has allowed just 10 in 125 innings. The low home run rate is why Stroman has been able to avoid big damage with traffic on the basepaths and why he’s been able to maintain a 2.96 ERA despite pitching at hitter-friendly Rogers Centre and facing the AL East titans so frequently. 

Of Stroman’s 21 starts this season, two were against the Red Sox, one was against the Yankees and one was at Coors Field. His ERA in those four starts was 2.52 and all four were quality starts. 

He also faced the Twins once and the A’s twice, two more offenses better than the majority of lineups he will face in the National League. It stands to reason that in the easier league, in a much bigger ballpark at Citi Field, Stroman can be even better. 

There is also a possibility he is better than Syndergaard, period. Syndergaard has the arsenal scouts and GMs dream about. But that arsenal does not lead him to success as often as it should. Syndergaard this season has been more hittable than ever with a declining rate of strikeouts. He is always a liability with men on base because of how easy it is to run on him. 

Yet the market values pitchers like Syndergaard above pitchers like Stroman because, again, so many front offices are focused and obsessed with the same skill sets. Stroman’s skill set is more underrated. 

Perhaps Van Wagenen can turn Syndergaard into prospects better than the ones he just traded to Toronto. At that point, the evaluation of the Stroman trade would be contingent upon who pitches better the next few years, Stroman or Syndergaard. 

The trade deadline is two days away. 

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