For his latest feat, Jacob deGrom handled Mother Nature with ease, too.
As his pursuit of the NL Cy Young Award enters its final weeks, deGrom finally took the ball Tuesday, two days later than expected because of rain. He held the Marlins to two runs in seven innings in a 5-3 Mets loss.
DeGrom’s ERA rose to 1.71 from 1.68, maintaining his sizeable lead over Washington’s Max Scherzer (2.31) and Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola (2.29). Tuesday was the 26th start in a row deGrom held his opponent to three runs or fewer, passing the Cubs’ Leslie “King” Cole, who did it in 25 consecutive starts in 1910, for the single-season major-league record.
And yet the result left the righthander thinking about one pitch: a fourth-inning, 0-and-2 fastball to Lewis Brinson that turned into a two-run double. It was up, where deGrom wanted it, but caught too much of the plate.
“I thought it was a good spot to go. He just got to it and beat me there,” deGrom said. “When I go out there, the goal is to put up zeros. Tonight, I wasn’t able to.”
The two-walk, nine-strikeout outing capped a strange stretch for deGrom, who was initially scheduled to pitch Sunday. When the game was delayed by about a half-hour — with more rain in the forecast — the Mets scratched deGrom less than an hour before first pitch, not wanting to risk losing him after an inning or two. On Monday, the Mets and Marlins were rained out, setting up a doubleheader Wednesday. That left deGrom with the Tuesday start, the third day in a row he woke up expecting to pitch and eight days after his most recent start.
“It is difficult. You wake up, your adrenaline is going, the way you sleep sometimes is different — the night before you pitch, your routine gets affected big time,” manager Mickey Callaway said before the game. “Then you have to do it multiple days in a row, and in the end can start to drain you a little bit.”
Said deGrom, who admitted to a bit of rust (including a leadoff walk): “Of course, looking back, I wish I would’ve pitched Sunday.”
All three hits and both runs deGrom allowed came in a three-batter span in the fourth, when Brian Anderson’s infield single and Derek Dietrich’s bloop single started a two-out rally. Brinson — who in seven previous pitches whiffed on three fastballs and fouled off two others — finally caught up to a heater, blasting it 407 feet to center for the two-run double.
DeGrom has had a tough time — a relative term — against the cellar-dwelling Marlins this season, posting a 3.12 ERA in four starts. Against everybody else, deGrom owns a 1.49 ERA.
Miami’s Jose Urena countered with 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball. He scattered four hits and three walks. In the sixth, Michael Conforto snuck a line drive over the wall in left-center for a homer. That was the first time in 28 innings that a teammate drove in a run for deGrom.
The Mets’ typical lack of run support for their ace turned deGrom into the losing pitcher, dropping his record to 8-9. No pitcher with a sub-.500 record has won the Cy Young.
With three more starts scheduled for this month, deGrom can max out at 11 wins. The record for fewest wins by a Cy Young winner is 13, set by Seattle’s Felix Hernandez in 2010.
The recent rain robbed deGrom of one last outing, on the last day of the season, Sept. 30 at Citi Field against the Marlins. Callaway said deGrom would start that day (on three days of rest instead of the normal four) only if a playoff spot were on the line — which is to say, deGrom won’t get the ball.
DeGrom wasn’t as sure. What if it meant something in the Cy Young race?
“I would definitely lobby for that,” deGrom said. “We’ll see.”