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Jacob deGrom has been the Mets’ constant.
In an ever-changing season marred by bad weather and a COVID outbreak on an opposing team, it’s been deGrom who’s come in for his usual turn through the rotation with Luis Rojas knowing that no matter what else happens, they will get the best out of him.
“I’m at the point where we expect him to come in and give us the length that has been given us,” the Mets manager said Friday before the Amazin’s series opener against the Nationals at Citi Field.
“He’s done a good job, I think this year compared to last year, his pitch per inning, it’s been a lot better,” Rojas continued. Last year, of course, being the one year deGrom did not win a Cy Young, but finished third in voting.
The Mets have no worries when it comes to him.
He showed it again on Friday night at Citi Field. And then some.
The Mets ace tosses a two-hit shutout, striking out a career-high 15 on 109 pitches. He lowered his season ERA to 0.31.
Oh, for good measure he got two hits of his own, the first of which drove in the Mets’ first run in the fifth inning.
This will probably be the final season pitchers hit, as the designated hitter is widely expected to come to the National League in 2022. If that’s the case, deGrom is going out with a bang, as he’s batting .545 this season (7 for 11 with one double).
DeGrom faced Nationals’ righty Erick Fedde on Friday in the first meeting between the two teams and deGrom’s first start against their NL East rival — after a number of Nats players and staff were diagnosed with COVID the day before 2021 Opening Weekend, postponing that series until June.
Fedde held his own against deGrom for a while, tossing four scoreless innings. But the Mets got to him in the fifth, led by deGrom’s RBI single and followed by a two-run single by Brandon Nimmo.
That chased Fedde out of the game and left the stage to deGrom.
The Mets were fresh off getting swept out of Chicago, and they needed their ace to be the stopper. DeGrom did that and then some.
It was the perfect start to their five-game home stand after they finished less-than impressive stints in Denver and Chicago.
Still, the road trip included one outing against the Rockies that was special by even deGrom’s standards. Over six innings, he struck out 14 batters, including nine consecutive. Having that many consecutive K’s nearly tied him with “The Franchise” for the MLB record — Tom Seaver set the record (10) 51 years ago.
That start dropped his ERA to 0.45, from an already ridiculous 0.64.
Coming back home, where Mets fans hardly bat an eyelash at such excellence, it was reasonable to ask whether expecting deGrominance has just become the norm. Rojas, as simply as he could answer, said he merely expected deGrom to do his job much like any coach would expect of a player.
“I think he’ll put us in a good position to win a ballgame,” Rojas said. “That’s what Jake wants. He wants to win. That’s the way he’s trying to evolve so far this season.”
The other time deGrom struck out 14 this year, against the Marlins on April 10, he gave up as many hits as he allowed (one) and the Mets still lost as their bats were ice cold.
It almost seems at this point, if deGrom wants to win, he’ll have to keep runners off the base paths and provide his own firepower at the same time. In fact in Colorado, deGrom contributed one run in the Mets’ 4-3 win. And he did more hitting on Friday night.
There’s only but so much one man can do. Until the Mets bats fully wake up and get in the rhythm they’ve been trying to get into (with the start and stop nature of their schedule so far), deGrom can only do his job.
The job looks more and more like being a wizard with a baseball, but who’s complaining? Certainly not the Mets.