The Jacob deGrom the Mets have been waiting for finally arrived Monday night.
The righthander took the mound against Washington at Citi Field and was much more than the solid pitcher he’d been in his first three starts. His pitching was a reminder that this is the deGrom who was named the 2014 National League Rookie of the Year and twice finished in the top 10 in the Cy Young Award voting; he was overpowering.
DeGrom became the first Mets starter to work into the eighth inning and came out after giving up a pair of singles around his 12th strikeout. He left with a five-run lead before a bullpen-wide collapse turned what seemed a certain win into an 8-6 loss. DeGrom went from being in line to go to 3-0 on the season to a no-decision.
“[He] was great against a real ly good lineup over there,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “If he continues to pitch like that, we’re going to win most of those games like we should have tonight. That was really good to see. It’s kind of funny. The first guy for us that goes that deep in the game and our bullpen, which has been so tremendous . . . [has] that happen.”
DeGrom, who took a 6-1 lead into the eighth, was charged with three runs in 7 1⁄3 innings after giving up six hits and an intentional walk. It was his 22nd game with double-digit whiffs.
The one dent he suffered was an unusual solo homer in the first by Bryce Harper. The Washington star broke his bat on the blast, which his strength somehow carried all the way into the bullpen area.
“That was pretty shocking,” deGrom said. “I heard the bat break and then I looked and [rightfielder Brandon] Nimmo — he just kept going.”
After giving up four runs in six innings last Tuesday, deGrom compared video of that game with some taken in 2015. It revealed something mechanical and, he said, “that my arm wasn’t able to get up.”
The resulting change gave his slider a more effective downward break. “I noticed something I was doing,” he said, “and it made a big difference, even playing catch.”