Shota Imanaga left to make adjustments after poor start against Mets

The left-hander threw three innings and allowed 10 runs and 11 hits in Friday’s 11-1 loss to the Mets after giving up no runs and three hits in his first matchup against them.

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New York Mets v Chicago Cubs

Shota Imanaga had arguably his worst start of the season against the Mets.

Jamie Sabau/Getty

Leadoff man Francisco Lindor’s at-bat in the first inning would foretell the type of outing Cubs left-hander Shota Imanaga would have Friday against the Mets.

Lindor connected on a four-seam fastball up in the zone for a double to left field. His teammates followed his approach and attacked Imanaga’s fastball early, hitting three home runs in the first two innings off the pitch.

Imanaga’s start Friday was notable because it was the first time he had faced a team for the second time. He allowed 10 runs and 11 hits in three-plus innings in an 11-1 loss to the Mets after allowing no runs and three hits in seven innings against them on May 1 at Citi Field.

The first half of the season has been about Imanaga figuring out what he can do in the majors and what he can’t.

‘‘They were ready for the fastball and ready for the breaking balls in the zone,’’ Imanaga said after the game. ‘‘I made an adjustment toward that, but they made another adjustment on top of that. So I think moving forward I just need to keep making those adjustments.’’

All three homers Imanaga yielded — on 2-1, 0-1 and 0-0 counts — came on his four-seam fastball. The Mets took a more aggressive approach the second time facing him, and their average exit velocity against his fastball was 105.8 mph.

Imanaga’s average fastball velocity (90.1 mph) was 1.7 mph slower than his average for the season, but that was intentional. He said he lowered his intensity early in his previous start — a superb seven-inning outing against the Cardinals — to last longer in games.

Imanaga tried to ramp it up, but the Mets were getting hard contact against him. He wanted to try to save the bullpen, but it wasn’t to be on this day.

‘‘It’s more lowering the output — like, the intensity — so throughout the game I can maintain it,’’ Imanaga said. ‘‘Moving forward, I just need to make an adjustment on how I do that, then I should be good.

‘‘It’s almost like a game of tag. They’ll [hitters] go forward a little bit and make an adjustment, then I have to make an adjustment.’’

After allowing a combined seven homers in his first 13 starts, Imanaga couldn’t keep the ball in the park. He also was facing a team that has been hot in June. The Mets are 12-5 this month and,

entering play Friday, had scored the sixth-most runs in the majors with a weighted runs created-plus of 138.

Because of the lack of success he was having with his fastball, Imanaga increased the use of his sweeper and splitter. In fact, the splitter was his most-used pitch for the first time all season. The more familiar opposing hitters become with his arsenal, the more creative Imanaga will have to be to get them out.

‘‘We made some mistakes, and they jumped on them,’’ manager Craig Counsell said.

As the season goes on, it will be on Imanaga to take the data from his previous starts and see what hitters are doing well against him. Even amid a successful beginning to his big-league career, Imanaga said he would watch pockets of a game in which he struggled to see where he could make changes.

He said he is open to using more of his secondary pitches as hitters get more familiar with his approach.

‘‘MLB hitters can adjust pitch-to-pitch, so they can do that within the game,’’ Imanaga said. ‘‘It’s something that’s good to learn in the early half of the season.’’

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