WASHINGTON — His title defense complete, Jacob deGrom mulled the question for a moment before becoming resigned to reality: He almost definitely will not win a third consecutive NL Cy Young Award.
Who would his pick be?
"I don’t know. I honestly — I guess [Trevor] Bauer," deGrom said. "Yu Darvish. I don’t know. I would’ve liked to have been there in the talks, but I don’t think today helped me."
Saturday did not help him. He allowed the Nationals three runs in five innings, with 10 strikeouts and two walks.
DeGrom leads the National League with 104 strikeouts, his second year in a row with that crown (unless the Phillies’ Aaron Nola gets 15 on Sunday). But the rest of his statistics, while dominant, fall short of best of the best: Heading into Sunday, he has a 2.38 ERA (sixth), 0.96 WHIP (tied for fourth), .190 opponents’ batting average (fourth) and 68 innings (ninth).
After winning the Cy Young Award in 2018 and 2019, deGrom is right in that Bauer, who helped the Reds to a playoff spot, probably is the favorite this year, though the Cubs’ Darvish also had a very good season (2.01 ERA, second in the NL).
Bauer leads the field with a 1.73 ERA, 0.79 WHIP and .159 opponents’ average. He capped his regular season with an eight-inning, one-run, 12-strikeout effort on short rest Wednesday. Asked if he sees himself as the deserving Cy Young choice, he wasn’t shy, saying: "I don’t see how you can see it any other way."
Or, as he wrote on Twitter, "Gimme dat."
DeGrom did, however, add one more feat to his list: a 102.2-mph fastball to Juan Soto in the first inning. That was the fastest pitch of his career.
The rest of his day was unremarkable. Two of the three runs came on homers by Andrew Stevenson, who in the third blasted a slider up in the zone 405 feet to right-center.
In the fifth, Stevenson lofted a long fly ball down the leftfield line. Dominic Smith tried to make a sliding, over-the-shoulder catch, but the ball deflected off his glove as he crashed hard into the wall. Smith was slow to get up as Stevenson circled the bases for a tying inside-the-park home run.
After getting checked out by head athletic trainer Brian Chicklo and manager Luis Rojas, Smith stayed in the game.
"He felt bad he didn’t catch the ball," deGrom said. "The main thing was him coming out of there being healthy."
That just about did it for deGrom’s outside shot at a three-peat. The only pitchers to win three Cy Youngs in a row are Greg Maddux (1992-95) and Randy Johnson (1999-2002), who each captured four straight.
DeGrom wasn’t too interested in assessing his season.
"These guys went out there and put up runs for me and I couldn’t put up zeros for them, so today is very frustrating for me," he said. "Probably going to think about this one for a little bit."