Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer don't disappoint in rare 1-2 punch
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Mets fans know all about a game becoming an event because of who their starting pitcher is. There have been Dwight Gooden days, Matt Harvey days and, most recently, Jacob deGrom days.
But there never was a day like Sunday.
It was the first deGrom/ Max Scherzer day as both aces pitched in a spring training game against the Cardinals at a bursting-at-the-seams Clover Park.
With the Mets off on Monday and Opening Day fast approaching, DeGrom threw the first three innings, Scherzer the final six.
The Mets won, 7-3, before 7,205 and a national audience on MLB Network, which picked up the WPIX broadcast.
The two aces, with a combined five Cy Young Awards, teamed up to strike out 12, seven by Scherzer.
DeGrom struck out five of the seven batters he faced, all on sliders.
“It’s definitely cool,” deGrom said. “But I’d rather be able to watch him pitch . . . I got done and then go do all my stuff, so I didn’t really get to see him pitch. He was doing the same thing, getting ready while I was throwing. I think it’s more cool to sit there and actually watch how he attacks hitters.”
Said Scherzer: “I think we all got a kick out of it. I mean, I’m coming out of the pen in spring. Just another wrinkle to everything. You keep a smile on your face, go out and take the ball. I wanted to finish the game and was able to. So that’s the most important thing, to get my six innings in.”
DeGrom, who topped out at 99 mph, allowed one run in his second start of spring training.
Facing a lineup that included four major-leaguers and five minor-leaguers, deGrom started off Dylan Carlson with a 97-mph fastball that was fouled off. He struck out Carlson and Lars Nootbaar on sliders before Harrison Bader lined a 98-mph fastball to center for a single.
DeGrom caught Paul DeJong looking at a slider to end the inning and then was checked by plate umpire John Tumpane for sticky stuff. None was found.
Alec Burleson picked up a two-out single off deGrom in the second. It came on the third consecutive curveball thrown by deGrom, which elicited smiles from deGrom, catcher Tomas Nido and everyone in the Mets’ dugout.
The curveball is deGrom’s fourth-best pitch and he threw it 0.3% of the time last season. Honing that pitch into a better weapon has been something he’s been talking about with Scherzer.
“Something I’m working on,” deGrom said. “Who knows? Could be something I use during the year.”
As the Mets hit in the bottom of the second, Scherzer started long-tossing on a back field.
Carlson touched deGrom for a first-pitch double to right-center with one out in the third. One out later, Bader grounded an RBI single into the shortstop hole under Francisco Lindor’s glove.
In the regular season, Lindor — who homered from both sides of the plate — probably would have laid out to at least keep the ball in the infield and save deGrom a run.
DeGrom threw 52 pitches, 38 for strikes, and his day was done. But the event was not.
Scherzer, who threw five innings in his first spring training outing, bounded out of the third-base dugout for the top of the fourth.
If deGrom had needed to be pulled during the third inning, Scherzer sent word from the bullpen that he was willing to come in mid-inning. Buck Showalter said he was glad he didn’t have to make that call because even if he signaled for someone else, the amped-up Scherzer might have started running in from the bullpen.
Scherzer’s first pitch was a 94-mph fastball. He retired the Cardinals in order on eight pitches, seven of them strikes.
Scherzer picked up his first strikeouts in the fifth when he fanned former Met Ali Sanchez with a 95-mph fastball and got Kramer Robertson swinging through an 85-mph changeup.
The sixth was a slog as Scherzer needed 26 pitches to get out of the inning without giving up a run. Sanchez doubled home a run in the seventh and Anderson Tejeda led off the ninth with a home run that went way over the jam-packed berm in rightfield.
Scherzer finished it with a strikeout of Robertson on his 90th pitch. Showalter said he wouldn’t have let Scherzer throw more than 95.
“That was fun, huh?” Showalter said. “Was it fun or unique? . . . I wish I had been in the stands to watch it for entertainment value.”
Nido hit a two-run homer in the Mets’ three-run second inning. Lindor added a solo shot in the third while batting lefthanded and a two-run blast in the seventh while batting righthanded.
“Good day,” Lindor said.
And a unique one.