For Jacob deGrom, utter dominance isn’t enough. Such is the plight of an ace on a losing team.
The Mets lost to the Cubs, 7-1, in 14 innings on Saturday night at Citi Field after Chicago’s six-run outburst against the Mets’ last available relievers, Buddy Baumann and Gerson Bautista. That, combined with another hapless offensive effort, wasted what was perhaps deGrom’s best start in a series of very good ones the past month-plus: seven innings, one run and 13 strikeouts, tying his career high.
Eight Mets pitchers struck out 24 Cubs, a franchise record, but Albert Almora Jr. and Ben Zobrist had two-run doubles and Javier Baez added a two-run homer in the 14th.
Losers of four of their past five games and 10 of 13, the Mets (27-29) took their futility when deGrom is on the mound to a new level. DeGrom has a 0.57 ERA in his past eight starts — three earned runs in 47 1⁄3 innings — but the Mets are 2-6 in those games.
It’s not necessarily a new issue, either. DeGrom has allowed one run or fewer in 55 of his 119 career starts. He has 49 wins.
“I’m just seeing that they don’t score very often when he pitches,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “I don’t see a different approach. I don’t know. Maybe they’re putting too much pressure on themselves because we haven’t been great when he pitched.”
The Cubs managed seven hits against deGrom, but even that is misleading. The Cubs dinked and dunked him to drive up his pitch count to 99 after six.
Six of their hits — three singles in the first, three singles in the sixth — were soft ones, maxing out at a hit speed of 80.1 mph (the rest were below 75.0 mph). The only solid hit was Jason Heyward’s double to left-center past a leaping Michael Conforto with two outs in the seventh.
After a visit from pitching coach Dave Eiland, deGrom struck out Kris Bryant swinging at a changeup on the inner half of the plate, his 116th pitch, the most by a Mets starter in 2018.
“That’s what you prepare for. You want to stay out here as long as possible,” deGrom said. “I feel good. I felt like I had good control of my fastball and I was getting in on a lot of guys. They were finding holes, but I was able to pitch out of some jams.”
The Cubs stranded eight baserunners and went 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position — itself a minor accomplishment considering deGrom’s track record in such jams this year. Opposing hitters entered the night 4-for-42 (.095) with one extra-base hit and a .188 OBP when deGrom had runners in scoring position.
This time he twice escaped bases-loaded, one-out situations. “It’s an incredible run,” Callaway said. “It’s impressive, his ability to strand runners in big situations. He’s doing a great job.”
Chicago lefthander Mike Montgomery held the Mets to one run and two hits in six innings. Conforto blasted a tying home run to center in the sixth.
Most of the night was a good one for the Mets’ bullpen, with five relievers holding the Cubs scoreless for six innings.
But extra innings proved difficult for the Mets’ bats. Cubs reliever Luke Farrell, who had a 6.75 ERA in seven games entering the night, tossed five scoreless innings, striking out seven.
The 4-hour, 53-minute game ended when Adrian Gonzalez lined out to shortstop and Amed Rosario was doubled off first.
The Mets had seven hits and only four at-bats with runners in scoring position. They were hitless in those chances.
“It’s the offense’s fault. It’s my fault,” said Brandon Nimmo, who went 0-for-6 with three strikeouts. “We just can’t get working all together. It’s really frustrating.”
What else can Callaway do to shake up the lineup?
“At this point,” he said, “I’m not quite sure.”