Jacob deGrom kept arriving at the intersection of keeping the Mets just one run behind or letting the Braves start to pull away at Citi Field Saturday.
Second and third, one out in the third.
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Runner at second, two outs in the fifth.
First and second, two outs in the sixth.
Runner at third, two outs in the seventh.
Each time, he pulled off his escape act. The Mets rallied for three in the seventh to grab a two-run lead, then wasted deGrom's seven-inning effort in which he gave up a run and five hits with nine strikeouts and a walk. The bullpen surrendered two in the ninth, helped by Wilmer Flores botching a potential game-ending double-play ball. Atlanta scored two more in the 11th for a 5-3 win.
"It's part of the game," deGrom said. "You're not going to win all of them."
The unhappy ending for the Mets overshadowed deGrom's continued wondrous work.
"That's the deGrom I'm used to right there . . . both stuff and command," said Travis d'Arnaud, catching deGrom for the first time since the backstop's return from a fractured hand.
After deGrom's 2014 season ended with a 9-6 record, a 2.69 ERA and the NL rookie of the year award, he had to show he was no one-year wonder.
But after opening with three strong starts, deGrom hit a sophomore speed bump, dropping three of four and allowing six, five and four runs in the losses.
"He came up last year and obviously took the stage by storm and then went through a little bit of a downtime and fought back," Terry Collins said. "One of the things I've always liked about Jake is the fact that he has made adjustments on the fly, even midseason, made a couple of changes. That's what I think makes him effective."
In his last six starts, he has yielded two runs or less five times and three (two earned) in the other. This time, he served up the one run in the first -- a Freddie Freeman homer.
"I think it's just being able to locate my pitches when I need to," deGrom said, "keeping the ball down, getting ground balls."
His third-inning escape with two in scoring position stood out. The former Stetson shortstop got Cameron Maybin to hit a comebacker, then fired home for the second out before getting Freeman swinging.
This marked deGrom's fifth straight game with at least eight strikeouts -- just the sixth pitcher in franchise history to do it. His record stayed at 7-4, but his ERA dropped to 2.33.
"He got off this year to a start where, gosh, he just for some reason lost the two-seam fastball down in the zone, lost it," Collins said. "He worked hard at trying to find it and has found it. And now he, all of a sudden, again maneuvers the eye level such that you never get a good read on him.
"His changeup has gotten better. I still think his curveball is a real good pitch. He's got some weapons for you no matter what you do."