Jacob deGrom fans career-high 15 for Mets in masterful shutout of Nationals
For a while at Citi Field on Friday night, it looked as if it was going to be the same old story: Jacob deGrom is outta-this-world great and the Mets don’t score for him.
So deGrom unlocked the Mets’ offense himself in the fifth inning by lining an RBI double to left for the game’s first run.
The other tired story line when deGrom pitches is the Mets’ bullpen blowing the game after he departs. So he didn’t depart. He threw a two-hit, no-walk, 15-strikeout masterpiece for his second career shutout in the Mets’ 6-0 victory over the Nationals.
DeGrom, who matched the Nationals with two hits and picked up all 15 of his strikeouts in the first seven innings, threw 109 pitches and retired the final 19 batters while pitching with an extra day’s rest. He set an MLB record with 50 strikeouts in his first four starts of the season.
DeGrom (2-1, 0.31 ERA) heard chants of "MVP, MVP" from the crowd of 8,130 all night, both on the mound and at the plate, and especially when he popped out of the dugout in the bottom of the eighth, helmet on, to head for the on-deck circle.
"That was definitely cool," deGrom said. "Going a whole year of playing with no fans, when I walked out there, it sounded like the place was full."
Is MVP talk appropriate this early in the season? Well, deGrom has allowed one earned run. He has driven in two and scored three himself.
"Jake is unbelievable," said Brandon Nimmo, who went 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs. "He has to be from another planet because he does things that are out of this world . . . He is someone I am in total awe of right now."
The Mets (8-7) brushed aside the bad taste of a three-game sweep by the Cubs in Chicago as they took the opener of a five-game homestand.
DeGrom, coming off back-to-back 14-strikeout starts, allowed a two-out single by Starlin Castro in the second and a two-out double by Andrew Stevenson off the glove of a diving Nimmo in center in the third. After that hard-hit but catchable double, deGrom got Josh Harrison to ground out to short on the next pitch and retired every single batter after that.
DeGrom, who was batting eighth, had a 4-0 lead when he came up in the eighth. He had thrown 100 pitches. He lined a single to right for his sixth hit in 11 at-bats this season and scored his second run of the game when Nimmo crushed a two-run homer to right.
Then deGrom went back out to the mound for the ninth. Was there ever a doubt?
"We were talking about who could come in in the ninth," manager Luis Rojas said. "As soon as he came in, he was putting his helmet on. He’s like, ‘I’m hitting. I’m going back in there.’ He was finishing this game."
After not striking out a batter in the eighth, deGrom opened the ninth with two groundouts.
Then he ended the gem with a flourish — not with a strikeout but with an athletic defensive play. Harrison hit a grounder to first, but Pete Alonso’s throw was high and deGrom had to jump to grab it and land on the bag.
Is there anything he can’t do? (Answer: No.)
"He’s a special pitcher," Rojas said. "But he’s a special athlete."
It was deGrom’s first complete game since 2018 and first shutout since 2016. His career ERA is 2.55, best among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings in Mets history. He had entered the night tied with Tom Seaver at 2.57.
DeGrom struck out the side in the sixth and seventh, giving him six straight strikeouts.
DeGrom had set the record for strikeouts in the first four appearances of a season when he got the previous batter, Josh Bell, swinging at a 92-mph changeup. The old record of 48 was set by Nolan Ryan in 1978 and equaled by Cleveland’s Shane Bieber this season.
DeGrom became the third pitcher to have three straight games with at least 14 strikeouts, joining Pedro Martinez (1999) and Gerrit Cole ( 2019).