PHILADELPHIA — For five months now, Jacob deGrom has been defiantly dominant.
When the Mets couldn’t score runs for him, he continued to excel. When the rails fell off this season for the Mets, he didn’t waver, and when his name was mentioned as trade bait, he barely blinked. So when the skies opened in the fourth inning Saturday at Citizens Bank Park, threatening to drown his chance to again make his case for Cy Young Award candidacy, he did what he’s done all year.
He asked pitching coach Dave Eiland how long this delay could go before his start would be in jeopardy. He kept warm. He played a little catch in the bullpen. And he ran onto the field about as soon as Mother Nature would let him.
The result was one of his best performances in an already spectacular season: a complete-game, 3-1 win over the Phillies. DeGrom allowed no earned runs, seven hits and no walks, struck out nine and threw 108 pitches. His ERA dropped to 1.71.
And that 41-minute rain delay? Nice try. DeGrom had a whole four minutes to spare.
“A little bit,” he said when asked if he was nervous. “I talked to Dave and he said [I had up to] 45 minutes and . . . They asked how much time I needed [to warm up] and I told them [until] 40. I didn’t want to get close to that 45 minutes.”
What’s more, deGrom did what he did a day after two very strong performances by his toughest competition — the Nationals’ Max Scherzer (zero earned runs in six innings) and the Phillies’ Aaron Nola (one earned run in seven).
“There was no hesitation — there was nothing at all,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said of deGrom’s reaction when he was asked if he could go out for the ninth.
In the last few weeks, Callaway has become a fervent backer of deGrom in the NL Cy Young Award competition, and before the game, he pointed to his peripheral stats. Just weeks ago, Callaway was shy about mentioning the Cy Young, but on Saturday, he was firm: “Scherzer has a .250 BABIP [batting average on balls in play], which means he’s getting fairly lucky and yet deGrom’s numbers are still better . . . It’s hard to say that deGrom hasn’t been better than everybody else.”
If the season ended today, deGrom’s ERA would be the second-best in franchise history, behind Dwight Gooden’s 1.53 in 1985. He won for the third straight start to turn a 5-7 record into an 8-7 mark, which could be pivotal in his Cy Young candidacy, and has allowed two earned runs with 31 strikeouts in 21 2⁄3 innings in that span.
DeGrom reached 200 strikeouts for the third time — he has 204 in 168 innings, a 10.9 K/9 ratio — and pitched his third career complete game.
The offense did just enough.
Jeff McNeil led off the fourth with a single and advanced to third when a pickoff attempt went awry and skittered into foul territory. Wilmer Flores singled to put the Mets up 1-0.
After that, the weather did its best to rain on everyone’s parade. A swath of ominous dark clouds enveloped the stadium, eventually giving way to rain, lightning and thunder. Both starters returned, though Jake Arrieta lasted only two more innings.
In the seventh, Devin Mesoraco homered on a hanging 3-and-2 slider to make it 2-0. Amed Rosario singled and McNeil tripled to right for a 3-0 lead.
An error led to the Phillies’ run in the seventh. Nick Williams and Maikel Franco strung together back-to-back one-out singles and Odubel Herrera hit a relatively slow grounder to Flores, who got the lead runner at second. Rosario’s throw back to first, though, went a little wide of deGrom, who couldn’t corral it, and Williams scored.
Herrera took too big a turn at first and was ruled out on a video replay after originally being called safe.
DeGrom was charged with the tough-luck error, but it was his only mistake of the day.
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