Silly us. All this time we had circled Monday night’s game at Citi Field as the pivotal start for Jacob deGrom, who was coming off two flops and threatened to be yet another troubling hole in a Mets rotation struggling to stay afloat.
DeGrom was the easily identifiable problem. The obvious red flag. If his issues continued against the Cubs, we would sound the siren.
Without deGrom, any Mets climb back to .500, and possible wild-card contention, most likely was a fantasy.
“He’s very important for us,” Terry Collins said before the game.
So imagine the Mets’ relief when deGrom actually went the distance in a 6-1 victory. He lasted only four innings in each of his previous two starts, when he was tagged for an alarming total of 15 runs.
But this was nothing like those nights. Rather than lean too much on his fastball, deGrom kept the Cubs guessing with a great slider-curve-change mix. Of his first 38 pitches, 31 were strikes, and deGrom rode that efficiency for the Mets’ first complete game since he did it last July 17.
As an exclamation point, deGrom rifled a 97-mph heater past a swinging Willson Con treras to finish up in a tidy 2 hours, 23 minutes.
“The last two starts, I got my teeth kicked in,” deGrom said. “I wanted to have a good one. Fortunately, tonight I did.”
Time to exhale, right?
Um, not quite.
Because no good deed goes unpunished in Metsville — and no bad deed sneaks by without the requisite public humiliation — there was the matter of Yoenis Cespedes’ removal after his fifth-inning flyout. The Mets announced Cespedes was taken out because of a “sore left heel,” an issue he said he’s dealt with since he played in Cuba.
We’re reluctant to dial back the concern just yet. Remember back in late April, when Cespedes first complained of hamstring discomfort and it initially was described by the team as a cramp? Shortly afterward, both Cespedes and Collins said it was nothing of the sort. A few days later, Cespedes went on the disabled list and disappeared for six weeks.
We’ll stick with our healthy skepticism. And that’s too bad. As much as the Mets really needed the feel-good story of the fixed deGrom, they had to see their $110-million slugger pulled prematurely. And it’s not as if everyone (outside the Mets’ organization) didn’t see this coming. By now, Collins shows up every day for work wearing a mental flak jacket, bracing for that inevitable gut punch.
“Yeah, it’s very frustrating,” he said. “You just can’t worry about one thing. There’s always something else that’s going to rear its head.”
The manager was referring to Cespedes’ assortment of aches and pains. But the Mets tend to have these brushfires throughout the clubhouse, and too often, they’re the ones unwittingly squirting the lighter fluid. Cespedes barely had made it through the door Saturday at Sun Trust Park before he was telling everyone that his leg was not 100 percent.
In case you may have forgotten, Cespedes reminded us of that again after Monday night’s victory. Hamstring, quadriceps, heel. We’re happy to report the left knee, for now, appears to be fine. But Cespedes insists he’s OK to play Tuesday, so stay tuned.
“You don’t want to aggravate the injury I’m coming off by aggravating something else,” Cespedes said through his interpreter.
At least deGrom gave the Mets one fewer thing to worry about. It’s a list, however, that never seems to get any shorter.