It was the start of Players’ Weekend all around baseball Friday. At Citi Field, as usual, it was Jacob deGrom Night.
At least for the first seven innings.
DeGrom allowed one run and struck out 13, including eight batters in a row, and also homered against the Braves. But he left after seven innings and 107 pitches in a tie game. The Mets went into extra innings knotted 1-1 against the NL East leaders.
It took 14 innings, but someone finally scored again. It was the Braves, who took the lead for good on Billy Hamilton’s RBI single off Jeurys Familia. The 2-1 defeat ended the Mets’ five-game winning streak.
Familia (4-2), the Mets’ eighth pitcher, started the inning by walking Tyler Flowers. Former Met Adeiny Hechavarria followed with an extra-base hit to the wall in right-center as Flowers scored what appeared to be the go-ahead run.
But wait. Mets manager Mickey Callaway asked for a replay review because the ball had briefly lodged in the padding in the outfield wall. After a short review, the play was called a ground-rule double and Flowers had to come out of the dugout and return to third base.
Familia then struck out Rafael Ortega. But Hamilton lined a go-ahead single past a drawn-in second baseman Joe Panik to give Atlanta the lead.
Callaway could have ordered an intentional walk to Hamilton to load the bases with the pitcher’s spot next and the Braves out of position players. He did not, probably because Ronald Acuna Jr. was the batter after the pitcher’s spot. Still, it might have been worth a try.
“We thought about that,” Callaway said. “But what we would have done is walked Ortega and pitched to a lesser Hamilton and then the pitcher. But when your pitcher’s struggling (to) throw balls in the strike zone, it’s tough to load the bases. So that was our ultimate thought. He’ll naturally pitch around (Hamilton) and not give him much to hit like he did Ortega. Got a big strikeout. Once he did that, with the lesser bat in Hamilton we figured, ‘Let’s get another one.’ The last thing we wanted to do was walk somebody once we got past Ortega and make sure Acuna hit. That was the thinking there.”
The Mets had chances to win in extra innings. They loaded the bases with two outs in the 10th, but Amed Rosario struck out. They had a runner on third with one out in the 11th, but Michael Conforto struck out and, after an intentional walk to J.D. Davis, pinch hitter Aaron Altherr grounded out.
“It’s frustrating,” Conforto said. “We had opportunities. Lots of extra-inning opportunities, but also throughout the regulation nine innings. We didn’t have it today at the plate like we did in the past.”
The Mets set a franchise record by striking out 26 batters. They also tied the major-league record, which had been done four times before.
For deGrom, it was the second time this season that he has struck out at least 13 and homered in the same game. The first time was April 3 against the Marlins. DeGrom is the only player to do that twice in the same season since 1900, according to Elias.
DeGrom struck out eight in a row from the third to the sixth inning. The streak ended when Ozzie Albies dunked a single to center in front of a charging Juan Lagares with one out in a scoreless game in the sixth.
Albies stole second and scored on Freddie Freeman’s single to center to give the Braves a 1-0 lead. DeGrom struck out the final two batters of the inning, giving him three innings in a row of striking out the side and 10 consecutive outs via strikeout.
DeGrom allowed four hits (all singles) and walked one. DeGrom also struck out eight batters in a row versus Miami on Sept. 15, 2014.
DeGrom’s brilliance wasn’t limited to the mound. He led off the bottom of the sixth with a first-pitch, opposite-field home run to left-center off Mike Foltynewicz to tie the score at 1. It was deGrom’s third career home run and second of this season.
“Going up there, I was thinking just try to get something over the middle of the plate that I can hit,’ deGrom said. “I was, I guess, fortunate enough I hit it over the wall.”
As for the Players’ Weekend festivities, deGrom was the only Mets player to not have a nickname on the back of his jersey. His lettering simply read “deGrom.”
Many who were watching in the ballpark and on TV probably didn’t know what was on the back of deGrom’s jersey, or that of any other Mets player. In a curious move, MLB and the Players Association decided to have one team in each series wear all white uniforms while the other team wore all black uniforms.
So the Mets were clad in white from head to toe, which made the white lettering and numbering on their uniforms hard to see. The whole point of the nickname thing is supposed to be to show a fun side of the players, but this year, some major squinting was required to figure out who was who.
Pete Alonso, for example, was “Polar Bear.” Michael Conforto was “Forto.” You’ll have to trust us.
Another odd wrinkle was that all of the Mets wore white caps except for the pitchers. MLB realized (perhaps too late) that a white baseball being thrown by a man wearing a white hat could make it hard for the batters to pick up the ball. So the pitchers wore black caps.
Nido exits after getting hit with bat. Tomas Nido left the game an inning after being hit in the back of the head by Josh Donaldson’s backswing in the sixth. After getting hit, Nido stayed in for the completion of the top of the sixth but was replaced by Wilson Ramos in the top of the seventh. There was no immediate report from the Mets on Nido’s condition. “I don’t think it’s concussion protocol at this moment,” Callaway said, “but that’s why we’ll evaluate him in the morning. Keep on checking him overnight.” Ramos singled in the 10th to extend his hitting streak to 17 games. He also stole the first base of his career.