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Cubs lefty Shota Imanaga suffers worst career outing in second time facing Mets

3 weeks agoAndy Martinez

While Shota Imanaga hadn’t run into too many issues this season, when he did, Craig Counsell could usually point his finger at what went wrong.

“One, they’re big-league hitters, so they’re gonna beat you and they’re gonna hit your good pitches sometimes, too, because that’s their job,” Counsell said prior to Friday’s series opener against the Mets. “And then the other thing [is] his fastball just gets kind of down in the zone a little bit at times.”

Both were on display Friday at Wrigley Field.

Facing the same opponent a second time for the first time in his major-league career, Imanaga allowed a career-worst 10 earned runs on 11 hits and exited after 3-plus innings in the Cubs’ 11-1 drubbing at Wrigley Field. The outing raised Imanaga’s ERA a full point, from 1.89 to 2.96.

“I felt their lineup, when I faced them today they were different,” Imanaga said through interpreter Edwin Stanberry. “And then how I felt against them previous time and today it was a little different.

“I think they were ready for the fastball and ready for the breaking balls in the zone. I made an adjustment towards that, but I felt like they made another adjustment on top of that, so I think moving forward, I just need to keep making those adjustments.”

Prior to the loss, Counsell tried to downplay the significance of Imanaga seeing an opponent for the second time because he had shown who he was as a pitcher in the major leagues.

“We can say this for every player every single day, or every pitcher or whatever,” Counsell said. “But I think Shota doesn’t need to pass any more tests. He’s done that.”

The Mets showed a better game plan the second time around.

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They clubbed 3 home runs off the lefty, who had allowed just 7 in his prior 13 starts. All 3 long balls came on his fastball. The Mets had an average exit velocity of 105.8 mph against Imanaga’s fastball as he threw the pitch 29 times.

Imanaga’s velocity overall was down on Friday. His fastball sat 90.1, compared to a 91.8 average velocity. His splitter, curveball and sweeper were all down a mile-per-hour or more, too.

The 30-year-old credited that to trying to conserve energy, something he had done in previous starts. The thinking behind that is it allows him to stay consistent throughout an outing.

“It’s more so lowering the output, lowering the intensity so throughout the game, I can maintain it,” Imanaga said. “And I would say moving forward, I just need to make an adjustment on how I do that.”

On Friday, New York jumped on Imanaga early and often. Francisco Lindor led off the ball game with a 108.4 mph double off Imanaga’s fastball to left field. After Brandon Nimmo walked, J.D. Martinez crushed a 106.1 mph homer to center field to give the Mets a 3-0 lead.

The Cubs had a chance to strike back in the bottom half of the frame, loading the bases with their first three hitters. But former Cub José Quintana induced a double play to the next batter, Christopher Morel and struck out Ian Happ to stymie the rally at just 1 run.

The Mets would make the Cubs rue the opportunity.

José Iglesias and Nimmo would add a pair of home runs in the 2nd inning to break the game open at 6-1. The Mets would score 4 more times against Imanaga.

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