CHICAGO — Just when it appeared the Mets had turned a corner on their season, they have reverted to losing series to sub-.500 teams.
It was unsightly for the Mets when it occurred earlier this month against the Tigers, Rockies and Reds, but now add the Cubs to the list.
Maybe the Mets’ last home stand — which finished with five straight victories for manager Buck Showalter’s bewildering bunch — never happened.
On Wednesday, they received a subpar start from Kodai Senga and hardly anything resembling an offensive attack against Marcus Stroman in a second straight loss, 4-2 at Wrigley Field, that gave the Cubs a series victory at minimum.
The Mets (25-25) will try to avoid getting swept in the three-game series on Thursday.
Stroman roared off the mound in celebration after he got Francisco Alvarez to hit into a double play that ended the eighth inning.
Two seasons removed from his Mets tenure, the right-hander was fired up, having completed a gem in which only Alvarez’s earlier home run had scathed him. Stroman allowed four hits and recorded 17 groundball outs over the eight innings.
The Mets have scored only two runs apiece in each of their last three games. That followed a flurry of excitement that was created by walk-off, 10-inning victories over the Rays and Guardians on the last home stand.
Senga managed to survive allowing 11 base runners over five innings, with only three runs scoring. Pitching on six days’ rest, he walked five, surrendered six hits and departed after 106 pitches.
That followed Senga’s best performance of the season, a three-hit gem over six innings with 12 strikeouts against the Rays.
“Senga is a great pitcher — he’s got a lot of great pitches as well, and he’s a competitor,” Alvarez said through an interpreter. “Maybe if he can just tighten up on the walks, but everything else he is ready to go.”
Senga refused to use the blustery conditions — the wind was blowing in at 17 mph from center field at game time — as an excuse for his control issues. The right-hander said he faced similar conditions pitching in Japan.
“Ever since coming over here to pitch in the big leagues I look at the data a little bit more,” Senga said through his interpreter. “I have pinpoint spots where I want to throw it and in the past outings I would miss just barely. But today I was very clearly out of the strike zone. I would definitely like to limit that.”
Alvarez continued his torrid play with a two-run homer in the third inning that gave the Mets a 2-0 lead. Mark Canha singled to begin the rally before Alvarez hit a shot through the wind that cleared the wall in left-center for his sixth homer of the season and third in four games. The rookie catcher entered play with a .968 OPS in May.
A baserunning miscue by Pete Alonso helped sink the Mets in the fourth inning. Brett Baty hit a fly ball to left field with one out and Alonso, running on the play, never picked up the ball. He was easily thrown out retreating to first base, ending the inning.
Senga got battered in the third inning, allowing three runs to place the Mets in a 3-2 hole. The ugly inning for the right-hander started with a walk to Nico Hoerner before Dansby Swanson stroked an RBI double. Seiya Suzuki followed with an RBI double and Mike Tauchman’s ensuing single brought in the Cubs’ third run.
“[Senga] kept that game from getting away from him, there were a lot of chances there,” Showalter said. “That part has been impressive, but just not a lot of early outs in the counts and sometimes that is a testament to his stuff because guys aren’t putting a lot of stuff in play early.”
Alvarez reached on an infield single leading off the sixth, but Brandon Nimmo — after failing in multiple attempts to bunt — hit into a double play against Stroman.
Drew Smith entered in the sixth and surrendered a homer to Hoerner that buried the Mets in a 4-2 hole. It was the second straight appearance in which Smith allowed a homer.