KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The beauty of baseball is in its frequent reminders: For all the data available and history to look back on, what happens on a given field on a given night is a total crapshoot.
The Mets’ 4-1 win over the Royals on Saturday night served as a terrific example. The bottom third of the victorious lineup looked, let’s say, less than intimidating, but Luis Guillorme (.190), Juan Lagares (.218) and Aaron Altherr (.088) went a combined 5-for-11 and scored all four runs. They were in the middle of everything the Mets (63-60) did offensively.
“You never know when you’re going to be the man,” said Lagares, who went 3-for-4.
In the fifth, Lagares and Altherr singled to start the tying rally. Joe Panik singled with two outs to drive in Lagares.
In the seventh, Lagares (single) and Altherr (hit by pitch) started the go-ahead rally. After Amed Rosario walked to load the bases, Pete Alonso — after barely missing a grand slam on a long foul ball near the rightfield pole — delivered a two-run single up the middle.
The Mets added a run in the eighth. With two outs, Guillorme singled and Lagares tripled.
“When they step up, you’re going to win games,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “Sometimes the top of your order will carry you, but in the games that the bottom of your order does what they did tonight, it really helps.”
Among the more predictable goings-on: Jacob deGrom dominated, allowing one run in seven innings. He worked around three hits and two walks and struck out five.
The Royals didn’t have a baserunner until the fourth, when a series of events yielded a Kansas City lead. With one out, Alex Gordon walked to become the first Royals baserunner, Hunter Dozier grounded a broken-bat single to right to pick up their first hit and Alonso committed an error on Jorge Soler’s bouncer to first to give them their first run. (DeGrom got a hard-hit double-play ball from Cheslor Cuthbert to escape the inning.)
DeGrom allowed the first two batters to reach in the seventh but got another bullet grounder from Cuthbert for a double play. The last of deGrom’s 107 pitches was a 98-mph fastball that Ryan O’Hearn swung through for strike three, stranding two runners.
His ERA is down to 2.61, fourth in the National League.
“Classic Jake deGrom,” Alonso said.
This outing continued a recent trend for deGrom: He leaned heavily on his slider, throwing that pitch as many times as he threw his fastball (39 each). That tendency seemed to start around June 20, when the Mets fired pitching coach Dave Eiland and replaced him with the Phil Regan/Jeremy Accardo tandem.
From the start of the season through the staff shake-up, deGrom threw 56 percent fastballs and 24 percent sliders, according to Brooks Baseball, a website that tracks pitch use. Since then, he has thrown 42 percent fastballs and 41 percent sliders.
That is a dramatic shift and coincides with Regan and Accardo joining the big-league team, but Accardo said it wasn’t a conscious big-picture strategy.
“There’s really nothing behind it,” said Accardo, who as pitching strategist helps Mets pitchers apply analytics to in-game decisions. “All of his stuff is good, it’s just that nobody has made the adjustment on his slider yet. If they’re not hitting it, stay with it.”
DeGrom, whose average slider (93 mph) is as fast as many pitchers’ fastballs, said: “It seems like everybody is hunting fastball, and I’m getting swings-and-misses on (the slider). That’s why I’ve been sticking with it.”
The increased slider use also correlates with a better version of deGrom. He had a 3.26 ERA on June 20. Since then, he has a 1.69 ERA, re-inserting him into Cy Young contention.
“Obviously, I’d like to be in the talks for it,” deGrom said. “But the main goal is to put this team in a position to win.”