PITTSBURGH — The second half of the season was off on Friday night, but not in a good direction for the NL East first place team.
Francisco Lindor’s grimace on a swing in the fifth inning, who forced him out of the game, was just the beginning. It wasn’t long before the benches emptied in PNC Park, giving the Mets a chance to swing, resulting in solid contact. Nothing happened, continuing a theme for the Mets, who scored only three hits in a 4-1 loss to the Pirates.
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The biggest imminent concern is Lindor, who reached to his right side after grounding out to second base and taking just a few steps out of the batter’s box. He was replaced by Luis Guillorme at shortstop for the bottom of the fifth and will be further evaluated on Saturday. According to the Mets, he left with right side pain.
Then came the fireworks. After John Nogowski lined out to end the fifth, he started chewing with Mets-starter Marcus Stroman, who yelled at the Pirates first baseman as he walked towards him. Catcher James McCann ended up between Nogowski and Stroman as both the benches and bullpens emptied. They pushed, but no punches were thrown.
“[Nogowski] is a clown,” said Stroman. “Drew Smith told me he’s a clown – he’s a clown. He knows I wasn’t talking to him, I put my head down and started walking to the dugout, and he continued with his mouth.”
Citing a possible miscommunication, McCann said Stroman had become annoyed by plate umpire Larry Vanover, and that the pitcher’s outburst after the last of the fifth could still lead to Nogowski.
“After the out, I think Stroman yelled something, not at Vanover, but just yelling, and Nogowski thought he was yelling at him, so obviously a big miscommunication,” McCann said.
Stroman bent over before leaving the field – he said someone stepped on his toe during the skirmish. Later, after leaving the game, Stroman struck a punch to Nogowski from the dugout.
“I just asked him why he ran away after talking all that s–t,” Stroman said.
It was the second time this season that benches were emptied after a Stroman exchange with a player. On June 1, Stroman and Josh Rojas from Arizona got into a heated argument after the last inning, which forced both teams onto the field. Rojas later said he was trying to activate the Diamondbacks, who started a rally against Stroman the next inning.
“Stroom just shows his emotions like he’s pitching,” said manager Luis Rojas. “He’s a guy who talks with emotions, he’s having fun out there, if someone doesn’t like it I just don’t understand why. Let him have fun. A lot of people enjoy this game and Stroman is one of those guys who does it on the hill.”
On Friday, Stroman gave up two runs on eight hits over five innings and left after 92 pitches. The righthander was cornered, but was able to keep the Mets in the game.
Stroman gave up two runs in a rocky second inning, including a 30-minute rain delay. With the bases loaded and one out in a scoreless game, the game was interrupted by heavy rain. When the play resumed, Stroman retired Chad Kuhl, but gave up a two-run single to Adam Frazier. Ke’Bryan Hayes followed with a single for the Pirates’ fifth hit in the inning, but Stroman struckout Bryan Reynolds to limit the damage.
“I just thought I had fought,” Stroman said. “I wasn’t sharp at all, but after I let those two runs in, my priority was to play five or six innings and keep my team in the game, and I thought I had done a good job.”
Wilmer Difo greeted Stroman’s replacement, Smith, with a homerun in the sixth that extended the Pirates’ lead to 3-1. Reynolds homered against Jeurys Familia in the seventh to give the Pirates their last run.
The Pirates are anchored in the NL Central basement, but they are a plague for the Mets, who have lost three of the five games between the teams this season. Included was a 6-5 gut-punch last Sunday at Citi Field in which Edwin Diaz gave up two runs in the ninth inning.
On this evening, the Mets were 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position and collected only one basehit after the second inning.
The Mets broke through with a run in the fourth to end an 11-inning scoreless streak against the Pirates that started last Sunday. Pete Alonso walked in the lead and Jeff McNeil reached on an error by short stop Kevin Newman before Jonathan Villar, with one out, took the run home from third base with a groundout.
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