Rarely, has there been a more certain bet. Jacob deGrom had silenced the Nationals, except for a first inning, broken-bat homer by Bryce Harper. DeGrom had carved up the hitters for 12 strikeouts, then ran into trouble in the eighth, yielding singles around his 12th and final strikeout. So he exited at 103 pitches.
No matter. DeGrom had been brilliant in the wake of another strong Noah Syndergaard performance, an 11-strikeout effort on Sunday. And now he was turning it over to the majors’ best bullpen, an outfit with baseball’s best ERA, 1.51.
Yup, deGrom was better than even money to notch his third win. The only safer bet was that Columbus would sail off the edge of the Earth in 1492.
Turns out the bullpen fell off a cliff, surrendering five runs in 1 ²/₃ innings as the Nationals shocked the Mets, 8-6, at Citi Field. It was tough watching.
“It’s definitely tough,” deGrom said in defense of the bullpen. “You’re comfortable when those guys come in. You know they’re not perfect. It’s going to happen. Tonight, we let one get away but, hey, back after them tomorrow.”
So deGrom’s masterful night ended in a no-decision. He worked 7 ¹/₃ innings, surrendered six hits and three runs, all earned but only one of which scored while he was on the mound. He allowed just one walk and it was intentional. It was the 22nd time in his career that deGrom struck out at least 10 — first time this season. He said it was the best he has felt in his three starts.
“Yeah, definitely,” deGrom said. “Tried to get my arm moving a little bit, tried to get it up and I felt like it made a big difference.”
And deGrom was especially pleased with the downward movement on his slider.
“It’s got more down to it, versus the sideways,” said deGrom who fanned 10 or more Nationals for the fifth time — all since the start of last season. “I was kind of getting around it. I’ve been watching some video, putting some stuff side by side and I noticed a couple things and I’m trying to work on that.”
Obviously, something clicked. DeGrom had thoughts of finishing what he started — he was at 84 pitches through seven innings. But “after I gave up the hit to [Trea] Turner I kind of figured I was going to be out of that game,” deGrom said, referring to the second hit of the eighth.
Manager Mickey Callaway, who can find the good and the positives in an oil spill, saw a lot to like from deGrom.
“It was great against a really good lineup over there,” Callaway said of deGrom’s night. “If he continues to pitch like that, we’re going to win most of those games like we should have tonight. It’s kind of funny. The first guy that goes that deep in a game and our bullpen has been so tremendous picking up four and five innings. That happens.”