CHICAGO - So far in these playoffs, Jacob deGrom has thrown one of the most dominant games in Mets history and one of the gutsiest games in Mets history.
Terry Collins appreciates gutsy. But he prefers dominant.
"I'm hoping he's back to his normal self," Collins said before Game 3 of the NLCS against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Tuesday night, deGrom wasn't as overpowering as when he struck out 13 in seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers. Nor did he have to do the tightrope walking he did in six clutch innings in Los Angeles in Game 5.
Last night, deGrom allowed two runs in seven efficient innings as the Mets beat the Cubs, 5-2, to take a 3-0 lead and get to within one win of their first World Series since 2000.
"Jake probably didn't have his best stuff, his best command, his best fastball," David Wright said. "But he found a way to win. That's the biggest compliment you can give a starting pitcher."
DeGrom, who improved to 3-0 in the postseason, gave up a pair of solo home runs -- one to Kyle Schwarber in the first inning and one to Jorge Soler in the fourth. Each time, the home runs erased a one-run Mets lead.
After Soler's home run, deGrom retired the final 11 Cubs he faced before he was removed for a pinch hitter in the eighth. DeGrom allowed four hits, walked one and struck out seven.
"I talked to Travis [d'Arnaud] and I noticed that they were hitting the fastball pretty well," deGrom said. "So I said, 'Hey, let's try to throw some off-speed up there early on and see if we can get some early contact' and that ended up working for me."
Collins had so much confidence in deGrom he declined to remove him for a pinch hitter with the Mets leading 3-2 and runners on second and third and two outs in the sixth. DeGrom hit a fly ball to left to end the threat, but then posted two more perfect innings and left with a 5-2 lead.
"In the third inning, I said, 'If we get five out of this guy, we'll be lucky,'" Collins said. "All of a sudden, fifth and fourth inning he started making pitches. So it was a very similar outing to he had in Los Angeles. He didn't have very good stuff early. His command was off. I don't know if he's fatigued this time of year. He's pitched more than he ever has his whole life."
In Game 5 of the NLDS, deGrom went out without his best stuff but kept the Dodgers to a pair of first-inning runs by wiggling out of jam after jam. He was in danger of being pulled as early as the second inning as Noah Syndergaard was warming in the bullpen.
But deGrom got it together. in the Mets' series-clinching 3-2 victory.
"That showed me right there that he can pitch without his best stuff," Collins said.