MIAMI — Jacob deGrom equaled his career high with 13 strikeouts against the Marlins on Saturday night. But the Mets fell, 5-4, as deGrom was pulled after seven innings and the Marlins rallied for three runs in the eighth against a burned-out bullpen.
Fernando Salas had not allowed a run in his first seven appearances, but in his eighth outing in the Mets’ first 12 games, he surrendered back-to-back homers to Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton. With that, deGrom’s evening was wasted, and manager Terry Collins was left to answer for his decision to pull the righty after 97 pitches.
“I want to protect these guys,” Collins said. “Jake was at basically 100 pitches. He was striking guys out. He was pitching great. But that’s enough. Fernando Salas has done nothing but put up zeros, so we went with that.”
Indeed, deGrom is coming off surgery that corrected a nerve issue in his elbow, and the Mets have been especially protective of the talented young arms that broke down last season.
“I don’t know how many times we have to say that right now; we have made a commitment to take care of these guys, make sure we don’t overdo it,” Collins said. “When we blow a save, it’s easy to second-guess that we could have run Jake out there . . . Now if Jake goes out there and he gets in trouble, the immediate thing is ‘why didn’t you take him out,’ right? That’s the next question.”
Instead, Collins found himself facing other questions involving his bullpen management in the eighth after the Mets scored two runs in the seventh and one in the eighth to take a 4-2 lead.
Salas retired the first two batters he faced before walking Miguel Rojas. That brought up the lefthanded-hitting Yelich.
It was a spot tailor-made for lefty specialist Jerry Blevins, but he had pitched four games in a row. Also, had Yelich reached base, Stanton loomed behind him, requiring another pitching change. Collins also said it was too early in the year to ask closer Addison Reed for a four-out save.
So Salas stayed in, fell behind in the count, and watched Yelich’s towering two-run blast reach the upper deck in rightfield. Marlins Park was still buzzing when Stanton delivered the go-ahead blow, a solo shot that landed in the batter’s eye in straightaway centerfield.
“It’s baseball. I feel bad for the team,” said Salas, who insisted he was ready to pitch despite his heavy workload. “They played hard every inning and late, we got up in the game.”
DeGrom took a 1-0 lead to the mound in the second inning, when Justin Bour and Marcell Ozuna hammered solo shots to give the Marlins a 2-1 lead.
“After I gave up those two home runs, I wasn’t very happy,” he said. “I just wanted to strike everybody out.”
He retired the next 11 in a row. His 13 strikeouts tied a career high set in 2014 and were the most by a Mets pitcher since Noah Syndergaard fanned 13 Diamondbacks on July 15, 2015.
Still, once the eighth inning rolled around, deGrom figured he was getting pulled.
“The goal is to be able to pitch all year,” he said. “I wasn’t able to do that last year. Like I said before, the goal is to stay healthy and it’s early in the season. Salas has done a great job for us. He did a great job for us last year. It was a rough inning for him. That’s rare that that happens.”