Jacob deGrom threw two warm-up pitches before the sixth inning Sunday before summoning the trainer, shaking his head disappointedly, his mouth set in one grim line.
And why wouldn’t he be disappointed? In the midst of another phenomenal season, deGrom, who missed his previous start with right lat inflammation, was feeling something else. It still was on his right side, but this time it was tightness in his lower back.
The Mets scheduled an MRI to determine the severity of the problem, and it’s certain they won’t take unnecessary risks with their ace. Manager Luis Rojas said it was too early to say if he will go on the injured list.
For a man who can’t buy a win on some days, deGrom — who pitched four perfect innings before struggling uncharacteristically in the fifth — earned the win in a 4-2 victory over the Diamondbacks. The Mets completed a three-game sweep, won their fifth in a row and defeated Arizona for the 10th straight time at Citi Field.
"He wanted to push through it," Rojas said. "But he did the right thing . . . He was down. You know how he is. He wants it. You saw him; he bunted for a hit today, he was pitching, he had perfect innings for four innings and he was competing, but his demeanor changed when he called on us from the mound. It’s unfortunate."
Rojas said he doesn’t believe that deGrom’s injury is connected to his previous one, or that he had been compensating for the lat issue. He described it as "tightness, not pain."
The bullpen, which began its day’s work with a 3.07 ERA, sixth best in the major leagues, again got the job done, pitching four innings of one-run ball. Edwin Diaz earned a five-out save, only the second time he’s done that in his career.
It was his fifth save of the season, which he got despite a two-out miscommunication in which both third baseman Jonathan Villar and catcher James McCann allowed an easy pop to fall between them in fair territory to bring the tying run to the plate. Diaz struck out Daulton Varsho to end it.
"For the bullpen to come in after [David] Peterson not having his best stuff [Friday] and [Saturday] with an opener in Tommy [Hunter] and [Joey] Lucchesi, and then obviously today with what happened with Jake, you know, the guys are lights out," Michael Conforto said. "They really have done a great job and we owe a big part of this sweep to these guys."
DeGrom retired the side in order for the first four innings, striking out five. Things began to unravel in the fifth.
He walked David Peralta and allowed a double by Stephen Vogt, a hit that nearly caused a catastrophic head-on collision in the gap between centerfielder Kevin Pillar and rightfielder Conforto. A walk to Eduardo Escobar loaded the bases before Nick Ahmed hit into a 4-4-3 double play, cutting the Mets’ lead to 2-1.
DeGrom struck out pinch hitter Christian Walker to end the threat. He walked three in the inning after having walked only four in his five previous starts.
The Mets scored two runs in the third. McCann led off with a single and deGrom followed with a perfectly placed bunt with the infield back, allowing him to reach first. Escobar threw the ball past first, allowing McCann to reach third. He scored on Francisco Lindor’s one-out sacrifice fly.
DeGrom smartly tagged up, moved to third and scored when Conforto singled for a 2-0 lead.
After the Diamondbacks sliced the lead in half, the Mets manufactured another run in the sixth. Reliever J.B. Bukauskas loaded the bases on two walks and a hit batsman. With two outs, Patrick Mazeika walked to put the Mets up 3-1.
It was Mazeika’s third major-league plate appearance and his second RBI in three days. His fielder’s-choice dribbler on Friday won it for the Mets in extra innings.
They added an insurance run in the seventh on Dom Smith’s RBI single.
Former Met Asdrubal Cabrera homered off Jacob Barnes in the eighth to make it 4-2.
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