On a hot and humid day at Citi Field Wednesday, Jacob deGrom had to labor early in the Mets’ 4-2 victory over the Marlins. After fighting back from a 3-and-0 count only to walk slugger Giancarlo Stanton and load the bases in the top of the first inning, deGrom struck out third baseman Chris Johnson to escape the opening frame unscathed.
It was a heavy load on a hot day, but nothing that deGrom isn’t used to or can’t handle. This season, he has mostly excelled when his body has failed him. Whether it be an early season back injury or struggling with consistent command, deGrom’s first half hasn’t exactly been the lights out affair that last season was.
But that’s what has made deGrom all the more impressive in his third major-league season. Despite early struggles Wednesday, the righthander allowed two runs on six hits over seven innings, struck out seven and walked two, all while throwing a season-high 117 pitches in his final start of the first half.
“We were a little short in the pen today, so we needed him to go deep,” manager Terry Collins said. “When he came off in the sixth, I said ‘Do you think you have one more in you?’ and he said ‘Absolutely.’ He went out and made some great pitches.”
In his final inning of work, deGrom retired the Marlins in order — his performance punctuated by a standing ovation from the Citi Field faithful.
Despite the success — he struck out six or more batters for the ninth consecutive start — deGrom said that some of the mechanical issues he dealt with early in the season have yet to subside.
“I still think that front side can come up a little more,” he said. “I’m still kind of falling to the first base side. I felt it was better against Chicago. Today, I noticed I was falling off a little bit.”
Pitching through those topsy-turvy mechanics, deGrom ended his first half 5-4 with a 2.61 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 15 starts (93 innings). Last season, he went 9-6 with a 2.14 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 17 first half starts (113.2 innings).
“I had to pitch a little more this first half, verses last year when I had overpowering stuff,” he said. “You can get away with more mistakes when you’re throwing harder. A mistake over the zone might not get hit as hard. You might blow it by somebody. I’ve really had to pitch, locate, and use all my pitches”
And those pitches, quite obviously, are on there way back.
“He made some pitches his last start [against Chicago], which is what we’ve seen in the past — 95 mph knee high fastball, painting the corner,” Collins said before the game. “When he’s doing that, he is special.”
Jacob deGrom had another solid outing: