Jacob deGrom impressive despite losing major-league debut

Chase Whitley of the Yankees prepares for his
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Chase Whitley of the Yankees prepares for his start against the Mets at Citi Field on Thursday, May 15, 2014.(Credit: Jim McIsaac)

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Two baseballs sat on the shelf of Jacob deGrom's first locker.

One was the ball that he fired past Yankees slugger Mark Teixeira Thursday night at 95 mph -- the first strikeout of deGrom's career. The other was the one deGrom lined into leftfield -- his first big-league hit.

Yet, despite a stellar major- league debut, deGrom was deprived of the best prize of all. The Mets fell, 1-0, though deGrom pitched well enough to win, holding the Yankees to just one run and four hits in seven innings.

"I was very, very impressed," manager Terry Collins said. "As the game went along, he got better."

For a second straight night, the Mets watched one of their pitching prospects thrive under the pressure of the Subway Series. Rafael Montero went first, allowing just three runs in his debut in a loss to the Yankees on Wednesday night.

Last night, the 25-year-old deGrom topped his former minor-league rotation mate.

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Even with 40,133 in the stands at Citi Field, deGrom remained a picture of calm. Twice, he got out of innings with the help of a double play. Three times, he retired the side in order. He walked only two, an indication of his command.

"It's a feeling that I'll probably never have again," deGrom said after his debut. "It was really cool."

The Mets drafted deGrom in the ninth round of the 2010 draft out of Stetson, where he had once been a shortstop. After missing 2011 recovering from Tommy John surgery on his elbow, the righthander quickly moved through the system.

This season, he put himself on the brink of a promotion. He spent the offseason breaking down video of his delivery, spotting flaws he'd soon iron out.

Scouts noticed that he became more deceptive. Hitters had a harder time distinguishing his fastball -- occasionally in the mid-90s -- from his secondary offerings. His mechanical adjustments made it easier to find a consistent release point.

DeGrom said it took two innings for his nerves to dissipate. But once they did, there was no mistaking it. After walking Brett Gardner to begin the third inning, deGrom didn't allow another baserunner until the seventh, when he walked Teixeira.

The Yankees scored their only run off deGrom in the inning, when Alfonso Soriano ripped a double to the left-centerfield gap, scoring Brian McCann from first base.

By the bottom of the seventh, there was nothing more deGrom could do. He took a seat atop the Mets bench in a team-issued blue hoodie. He had brought his scouting reports to life, pumping the zone with strikes, and doing it with no hint of hesitation.

Aside from career win No. 1 -- a fate outside of his control -- he had accomplished most everything he had hoped.

"You want to prove that you can pitch at this level," deGrom said. "That was my goal, to keep the game close and give us a chance to win."

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