Mets’ Kodai Senga talks lack of control, trying to ‘eliminate’ walks after loss to Cubs

Apr 11, 2023; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Kodai Senga (34) watches from the dugout during the first inning against the San Diego Padres at Citi Field.

It wasn’t pretty, but Kodai Senga gave the Mets a gutsy performance against the Cubs in their 4-2 loss on Wednesday night.

Senga gave up three runs -- all in one inning -- over five innings to give the Mets a chance at grabbing a win at Wrigley Field. Unfortunately for Senga, what many will remember about Wednesday’s outing are the walks.

Senga walked a season-high five batters, three of them led off innings that put the 29-year-old in a lot of trouble early and often.

“Stuff’s good, he just kept letting the game get away from him,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said after the game. “Just not a lot of early outs in the counts. A lot of foul balls. To get out of there with three runs with all the traffic he had, I would just like to see him manage it better.”

“I don’t think I was able to control my pitches as well as I would have liked to and that resulted in high pitch count and low innings,” Senga said through an interpreter.

“If you dive into the numbers, you can tell there are small things that are different in those pitches,” Senga added about the difference between when he has control and when he doesn’t. “Even myself, I could tell things weren’t clicking the way I wanted to. Hopefully, moving forward, I will be able to click it in and be more efficient.”

Three runs were enough for Marcus Stroman, who gave up just two runs over eight innings of work to pick up the win against his former team. The one big blow for the Mets came from rookie catcher Francisco Alvarez, who smashed a two-run shot through the Chicago wind to put the Mets up early.

Those blustery conditions sent fly balls into the stands in foul territory and slowed balls down in the outfield. Coming from Japan, where those conditions are rare during games, both Senga and Showalter denied they affected Wednesday’s outing.

But Showalter did give that he hopes Senga will become more comfortable in the summer.

“I’m hoping that [better control] happens when the weather warms up a bit and he’s settled into a routine,” Showalter said. “He’s been effective for us, giving us a chance to win. That’s what pitchers are supposed to do.”

“Senga is a great pitcher,” Alvarez said through a translator. “He has a lot of great pitches as well and he’s a competitor. If he can just tighten up on the walks, he’ll be ready to go.”

Another aspect of Senga’s up-and-down season has been the splits between home and away games. In four home starts, Senga has pitched to a 2-1 record with a 1.57 ERA. On the road, Senga is 2-2 with a 6.12 ERA.

Senga seemed a bit surprised by the disparity when it was brought up to him postgame, but couldn’t specify why it was the case. Instead, he put the onus on his location and nothing else.

“Ever since coming over here, I look at the data a little more and I have pinpoint spots,'' Senga explained. “In past starts I would barely miss but today I was clearly out of the strike zone. Clear balls, clear walks and I have to try and eliminate those types of walks.”

After Wednesday’s start, Senga has 31 walks this season, which is tied for fourth in all of the MLB. He’ll look to cut down on the walks when his turn in the rotation comes up next week back at Citi Field. We’ll see then if Senga can get back on track.