It seems as if every time he takes the mound, Jacob deGrom adds to his mythos. Lowest WHIP through 12 starts in MLB history? Check. Best earned run average by a long shot? Also check. Consistency, despite two scary-sounding injuries? He’s got that in the bag, too.
But perhaps just as impressive as the 100-mph fastballs at 33 years old is the fact that Monday proved he was doing it clean. DeGrom, who didn’t miss a start despite suffering from shoulder inflammation his last time out, was the testing ground for MLB’s new foreign substance policy. He was checked twice in the Mets’ 4-2 win over Atlanta in Game 1 of a doubleheader — umpires examined his glove, cap and belt — and both times came away unbothered, even laughing at the absurd optics.
"Honestly, I didn’t mind it," deGrom said before the Mets lost Game 2, 1-0. "It was quick and it went pretty easy."
DeGrom’s return from injury and his quick clearance from the sticky stuff police were a respite from a pretty painful day at Citi Field.
The Mets lost Robert Gsellman (right lat strain) and Jeurys Familia (right hip impingement) to the injured list, and Joey Lucchesi, who had gone down with elbow inflammation, actually has a significant tear in his UCL. Luis Rojas said the Mets will look to get a second opinion before deciding on Tommy John surgery.
Lucchesi has a 4.46 ERA but pitched to a 1.19 ERA in his last five starts. "It’s a big loss for us," Rojas said. "He’s a talented young kid and I think was getting better every time he goes out there."
Tomas Nido, who was hit on the wrist, and Jonathan Villar, who suffered from right calf tightness, also left with in-game injuries, though the extent of those was unknown.
As for deGrom, he certainly didn’t appear to be suffering from the absence of Spider Tack or whatever other concoction pitchers use to better grip the ball: He allowed no runs and one hit with six strikeouts and an atypical two walks in five innings, routinely hitting 100 mph with his fastball. He was pulled after 70 pitches as a precaution but did notice he began flying open in the later innings.
The Game 1 scoring came courtesy of heads-up baserunning by Jonathan Villar, who scored on a wild pitch in the first, and Dominic Smith’s three-run triple in the fifth.
The Mets called up Jerad Eickhoff to start Game 2, and the righthander acquitted himself nicely, allowing no runs and three hits in four innings. Miguel Castro allowed a home run to the first batter he faced in the fifth as Ronald Acuña Jr., who hit his 20th, gave Atlanta a 1-0 lead.
The Mets loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, but Kevin Pillar lined out to third — with Pete Alonso nearly getting doubled off third — and Brandon Drury popped out to end it.
DeGrom’s ERA is 0.50 and he hasn’t allowed a run in his last 30 innings. The club record for scoreless innings is 32 2⁄3 set by R.A. Dickey in his 2012 Cy Young Award season.
DeGrom’s first 12 starts are among the best ever: His ERA is tied for second dating to when earned runs became official in 1912 (NL) and 1913 (AL), and his WHIP (0.51) and opposing batting average (.113) are best.
"I felt good. I think that’s why we decided that that 70-pitch mark, to say that was enough," deGrom said. "Didn’t want to overdo it, and talking to Hef [pitching coach Jeremy Hefner] and Luis [Rojas] in between, they said they thought it was enough . . . I’ve said it before. I do not like coming out of baseball games. Hopefully that last one was the last time this year."
And it helps that he seems to have some magical healing ability that allows him to come out every five days despite a number of ailments. Before the shoulder soreness, he dealt with flexor tendinitis in his right elbow. In mid-May, he spent time on the injured list with tightness in his right side.
"Going through the game, you’re definitely paying attention to each pitch," Rojas said. "There were definitely some that sailed, which was unusual for him . . . I was always checking and wondering, but nothing alarming, so the 70-pitch mark and the five innings was just good enough. We go to the next one now, but definitely a huge day for him."
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