ATLANTA — There was a sense, as Jacob deGrom walked out for the sixth inning Monday, that the Braves were going to have to drag him off the mound at SunTrust Park.
After all, deGrom didn’t waver in the third, when a Biblical deluge threatened to delay the game. He stayed the course, confident it was just a passing shower (it was). When there was an actual rain delay in the sixth — albeit no rain — he stayed warm and ready. It was over 31 minutes later, and he quickly trotted to the mound, even though he hadn’t thrown a pitch in nearly an hour. He hit for himself to lead off the seventh, then wiggled out of a jam in the bottom of the inning.
When deGrom finally did leave for the day, it was on his own terms: having thrown 115 pitches through seven and given the Mets every chance to win.
DeGrom left with a 2-1 lead after allowing five hits, walking three and striking out eight — and the Mets lost, 4-3, on Charlie Culberson’s walk-off two-run home run off Seth Lugo.
“I wanted to stay in,” deGrom said after his seventh no-decision to go with a 1.52 ERA and a 4-0 record (of the seven no-decisions, six have come in a loss). “I did not want to come out of that game.”
Once again, the Mets faltered after deGrom departed. Lugo, arguably their best reliever right now, struggled with his curveball, his best pitch, and coughed up three runs in two innings.
DeGrom has built a reputation as a masterful escape artist. He did it in the seventh after allowing a leadoff home run by Tyler Flowers, walking Preston Tucker and giving up a single by Johan Camargo. He then retired the side on a strikeout, a pop-up and a grounder.
The Braves were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position against deGrom, expanding his season mark to 4-for-44 (an .091 average).
“He just stays composed, makes pitches, doesn’t try to do too much,” catcher Devin Mesoraco said. “As a hitter in that situation, you want to go up there and put the pressure on the pitcher, and Jake, that doesn’t work. He puts the pressure on the hitter. He’s just as calm as can be.
“In those situations, most of the time, I try to calm those guys down. With Jake, you don’t have to do that. He already knows.”
That’s the reason, Mickey Callaway said, he kept him out there for as long as possible, even when he seemed to be losing the thread in the seventh.
“We wanted to give him a chance to win or lose it in that seventh inning because he deserves it,” Callaway said. “He’s pitched great. He can’t control what happens when he comes out of a game.”
That’s the problem.