Saturday, April 8, 2023

Senga Sizzles As Mets Roll Past Marlins


Kodai Senga pitching to Luis Arraez in the first inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

Kodai Senga had an impressive debut at Citi Field to lead the Mets to a 5-2 win over the Miami Marlins on Saturday evening.

Senga, the ace from Japan whom the Mets signed in the offseason, had his signature "ghost fork" pitch going in this one, as he went six innings, and allowed just one run on three hits and struck out six to earn his second victory of the season, with a superb ERA (earned run average of 1.59)

Mets Manager Buck Showalter, in his postgame press conference, was asked about what has impressed him the most about Senga, "Well, a lot of things, how quickly - there's a lot of things thrown at him, and he asks a lot of questions, he's got the alert face, and he's sharp. He's another guy that likes to prove people wrong. Nobody here certainly doubts him; stuff is not a question. Just, he's got a good rhythm and tempo, and you can tell the guys are drawn to him very quickly, the way he goes about it, he's very team-oriented, and it's fun to watch him pitch. He's got an idea, he's got a talented hand."

Senga's outing began with a strikeout of Jazz Chisholm, Jr. before he allowed singles to Garrett Cooper and Luis Arraez. He recovered to strike out Jorge Soler and got Jean Segura to bounce out to first base.

Kodai Senga's first pitch of the game to Jazz Chisholm, Jr. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Mets gave Senga a lead in the bottom of the first. Miami starter Trevor Rogers opened his outing by hitting Brandon Nimmo with a pitch, and then with two outs, walking Pete Alonso. Rogers then got Mark Canha to dribble one to the right side of the infield. It got past Rogers, and by the time it got to Arraez, Canha was nearly to the bag to beat it out for an infield single to load the bases. Jeff McNeil was up next, and he drew a walk to make it 1-0.

Senga struck out the side in the second, beginning a run of four innings in which he didn't allow a hit and only allowed one baserunner, Cooper, who walked in the third.

The Mets gave him a bigger cushion in the fifth when Pete Alonso launched a bomb to left field for a two-run shot, his fourth home run in three games, to make it 3-0 Mets.

Miami got one back in the sixth when Chisholm blasted a solo shot to right field. They had a chance to add to it when Senga walked Arraez and Segura, but Avisail Garcia grounded out to third base to end the inning, and Senga's outing.

Showalter, in expanding on what he meant by Senga having a "talented hand," said later in his presser, "A lot of things are, like Mariano's cutter came from experimentation, or playing catch and noticing the ball's cutting when he does certain things, pressure points, what's changing the shape of your breaking ball, Max (Scherzer) and Justin (Verlander) both do that. It may be a hybrid of a slider and a curveball, but they have a vision of what hitters are trying to do, and change the shape of where their bat angle is. It's about reading hitters and then being able to do something with the baseball to give them a little different look. You don't survive as long as Senga has over there (in Japan), and Justin and those guys here without being able to throw a little different wrinkle in there. Robbie's (David Robertson) does that a lot; there's not many two-pitch, same look every time out guys that survive, especially starters, unless they're just, well, you know, Randy Johnson was a freak from a standpoint of, basically, a two-pitch pitcher, but they were such good pitches, you don't see that very often.

"(Senga)'s got talent, you know, to throw the split and, you know, the slider and the cutter. He threw a lot of behind in the count cutters today for strikes, which tells you what a good feel he's got for that. He threw a 3-1 cutter, he threw a 3-0 cutter one time, which tells you he feels like he's got pretty good command of that. He's got a lot of weapons that hitters have to prepare for."

In the bottom of the sixth, Eduardo Escobar hit a two-run homer, his first of the season, to open up a 5-1 lead for the Mets.

"There was a lot of guys, you know, whew," was how Showalter described the reaction in the Mets' dugout to Escobar's homer. "That's a good home run against the wind, especially in this weather, just missed one earlier. He's working, we all know what he means to the morale of the club, and you'd like to see those guys do well. There wasn't a better player in our league in September last year. Sometimes, we, you know it's there, hopefully this will get him going. We know how much some of his struggles early on have, you know, it bothers him, just like everybody. You understand how this works up here, and he knows that. It's like a brother or a teammate, you always hate when there's some negative focus on somebody because you know they're better than that, and you see all the quality things that they mean to the club, and a lot of intangibles that don't always show up, but that's the world we live in. He understands that, he's been playing a long time; at every turn, that's one thing I remind him of, he's had to earn everything every step of the way. He's had a lot of people tell him he couldn't do something from a very early part of his career, so I'd be careful about doubting him."

Miami got one back in the seventh when Bryan De La Cruz drew a walk against Drew Smith, and came in to score when Arraez got an RBI single off Brooks Raley to make it 5-2. Miami at that point had the bases loaded, and John Curtiss came on to get Soler to pop up to second to end the threat.

Curtiss stayed on and pitched a perfect eighth before David Robertson pitched a 1-2-3 in the ninth to earn his second save and keep his ERA at 0.00.

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