Every fastball seemed like an answer, and every crisp slider was an exclamation.
As Jacob deGrom mowed down one Diamondback after another in the Mets’ 3-1 win Friday night, it was clear that for once, the Mets’ worst fears hadn’t come true. The hyperextended elbow that sent him to the disabled list earlier this month wasn’t a lingering concern, and his one-inning outing his last time out was an aberration.
“No, not really,” deGrom said when asked if he was worried. “[My last start] was just one inning and it was just strange.”
But things haven’t been going so great for the Mets as of late, and strange things have often been bad tidings. Just hours before first pitch, they announced that Juan Lagares, who originally seemed to just stub his toe on a play Wednesday, will require surgery and likely is out for the year. It seemed merciful, then, that deGrom put all doubts to rest immediately Friday night.
He pitched seven innings, matched a career high with 13 strikeouts, and dominated throughout, allowing one run and six hits with no walks. He struck out 13 for the fourth time in his career.
Michael Conforto went 4-for-4 with two RBIs. The four hits match a career high; he also went 4-for-4 in his second major-league game. Conforto, who’s had a slow start to the season and entered the game hitting .200, is showing signs of life. He hit to all fields Friday and generally looked more comfortable at the plate. Good news, too, since Mickey Callaway said before the game that Lagares’ injury means that Conforto will play centerfield “every day.”
“It’s kind of been a process at the plate,” Conforto said. “I had a conversation with [bench coach Gary] DiSarcina. Slumps don’t come out of nowhere. They’re kind of gradual and when you come out of a slump, it’s not all of a sudden that you go crush all the baseballs that come at you. It’s gradual, as well. Over the last five, six games, I’ve felt good.”
Despite needing 45 pitches to get out of that one inning in his last start, deGrom didn’t allow a run, meaning that his scoreless streak was intact. On Friday, that streak — 24 1⁄3 innings — came to an end on Jake Lamb’s run-scoring double in the sixth. Still, it was a career high for deGrom, who has been a fixture of reliability on a team well-known for its mercurial nature.
DeGrom (4-0, 1.75 ERA) needed only 13 pitches to retire the side in the first and regained the fastball command that abandoned him during his May 11 start. The Diamondbacks had only two runners reach scoring position in the first five innings and never posed a serious threat while deGrom was on the mound.
“He’s just got so many weapons,” catcher Devin Mesoraco said. “They can’t look for one thing, and he had all [his pitches] going today . . . His stuff, there’s nothing where you go, ‘Man, I want to hit that.’ ”
Meanwhile, the Mets’ offense was able to do just enough.
Brandon Nimmo led off the bottom of the first with a walk and Adrubal Cabrera hit into a fielder’s choice that was thrown away at second. Wilmer Flores grounded out to short to score the first run of the game, and one batter later Conforto hit an opposite-field single to score Cabrera and put the Mets up 2-0. Both runs were unearned.
Conforto tacked on an RBI single in the fifth.
“I was able to throw strikes,” deGrom said. I was able to throw any pitch at any count tonight . . . I felt good. I would say it’s probably close to the best I’ve felt.”
Notes & quotes: Todd Frazier (hamstring) was eligible to come off the disabled list Friday but isn’t ready, Callaway said, adding the third baseman was “day to day.” Callaway said he’s making progress but it’s unclear whether he’ll need a rehab game once he’s healthy . . . Kevin Plawecki is “progressing nicely,” Callaway said, and feels no pain from the fracture in his hand when he makes contact. “When he swings and misses, he feels a little bit of pain but it’s nothing that is keeping him from progressing. He’s getting closer,” he said.