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Jacob deGrom dominates Diamondbacks, Kevin Pillar returns with hit in Mets' win

Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom throws against the Arizona

Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first inning during a baseball game, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Phoenix.  Credit: AP/Rick Scuteri

PHOENIX — For a little while Monday night, Jacob deGrom looked as if he might do something historic.

In the end, he settled for normal dominance.

DeGrom shut out the Diamondbacks for six innings in the Mets’ 6-2 win, walking none and striking out eight. That lowered his ERA to 0.71.

He didn’t allow a baserunner until the fifth inning, when his 14th hitter, Carson Kelly, singled to center. The only other hit against deGrom came two batters later when Josh Reddick singled to right on a fly ball nearly caught by a sliding Billy McKinney.

 

In accordance with the predetermined limits agreed upon by deGrom, pitching coach Jeremy Hefner and manager Luis Rojas, deGrom was pulled after 70 pitches, an act of continued caution in his second start back from the injured list and his longest start in more than a month. DeGrom said he expects to "take the reins off" next time.

The thought of making history, though, had crossed his mind.

"I’d be lying if I said it didn’t," deGrom said. "If I would have had a perfect game or no-hitter going still, I would’ve wanted to stay out there. But [the limits were] something we discussed before. I guess when I gave up the hit, it made the decisions a little easier."

What would have happened if deGrom had been chasing one of those accomplishments when he reached his thresholds? Rojas said he didn’t know because "it didn’t cross my mind."

"I guess it worked out better that we weren’t in that situation," deGrom said.

The Mets (26-20) have won five games in a row. The Diamondbacks (19-36) have lost 14 of 15. The details offered clues as to why.

Arizona righthander Merrill Kelly lasted 6 2⁄3 innings and gave up five runs. Four of those came via Pete Alonso, who had a two-run single and two-run homer, both with two outs, in his first game back from the injured list after dealing with a sprained right hand.

"I felt strong, I felt normal, I felt myself," said Alonso, who admitted to not feeling that way before going on the IL. "I’m at my best when I feel like Pete."

Joining Alonso as IL returners were reliever Seth Lugo (elbow surgery) and outfielder Kevin Pillar (broken nose). Lugo didn’t get into the game, but Pillar did — and provided the highlight, emotionally if not statistically.

Two weeks after getting hit in the face with a fastball, Pillar entered as a defensive replacement in the seventh inning. He received two ovations in the eighth, first as he stepped to the plate for his first at-bat and then after he sent a hard ground ball to leftfield for a single.

"That was an emotional moment for all of us," Rojas said. "Everyone has so much respect for a guy like that, who found his way back quicker than anyone could think. For him to step in the box, when the last pitch he saw went to his face, and he’s stepping right back to the pitcher and taking full hacks. Man, this guy is a warrior."

Pillar’s nose still is broken — it takes four to six weeks for the bone to heal, he said — so he will wear a protective mask in the outfield and on the bases (but not at the plate because it interferes with his peripheral vision).

"His attitude and how he approaches the game is really special. He’s a great guy to have in our clubhouse," Alonso said. "To be able to dig in there, get that knock and get that monkey off his shoulder — to be able to do that, he’s got stones. He’s got a really, really tough, gritty attitude. He’s just an awesome guy, awesome teammate, awesome player."

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