Among the creatively cruel, mind-bending ways for Jacob deGrom to lose a game — and we all know there have been dozens of these during his tortured Mets career — Saturday’s defeat was especially aggravating.
His only blemish in eight innings probably carried the same odds as deGrom being struck by a lightning bolt while standing on the mound at Citi Field.
Without a cloud in the sky.
That’s because the Marlins’ Jazz Chisholm Jr., a very talented rookie playing in his 28th game, somehow caught up to an 0-and-2 fastball traveling at 100.4 mph. It wasn’t even a strike.
But Chisholm jumped on the pitch and sent it sailing 402 feet into the upper deck of the Coca-Cola Corner.
The second-inning bomb, which came after deGrom struck out four of the first five Marlins, stood up as the winning run, even though Miami tacked on two more runs in the ninth against Edwin Diaz to hand the Mets a 3-0 loss.
DeGrom wouldn’t admit it, but he had to be astonished. His first two pitches to Chisholm were triple-digit fastballs at the top of the zone, and he rifled the third a few inches higher.
This was a formula that almost always has worked, and on a day when deGrom matched a career high with 14 strikeouts, Chisholm should have gone down flailing in this at-bat.
Incredibly, he did not. And congrats to Chisholm for being the first opponent to homer off deGrom on an 0-and-2 pitch (out of 1,191 chances).
"I felt like it was a good pitch," deGrom said. "Looking back, there are probably a couple of other options I could have went with. But I saw those first two swings and I felt like, hey, let’s go up [top] here. I think in my mind that was at that time the right call. And he beat me to the spot. So I gotta tip my hat to him."
And it was only one run. The Mets weren’t going to let their ace get done in by a solo homer in the second inning, were they?
But we’ve all seen this movie before. So has deGrom, who probably dialed himself up to 11 knowing full well that if the Mets scored any runs, that total wasn’t going to be many more than one or two. Unfortunately for him, it was zero.
"You can call it a waste," manager Luis Rojas said.
That’s one word for what happened. By now, we’ve exhausted our vocabulary when it comes to the Mets kicking away a deGrom masterpiece. Since the start of the 2018 season, a stretch that includes back-to-back Cy Young Awards for deGrom and last year’s third-place finish, he has a 2.06 ERA in 78 starts, yet the Mets are six games under .500 (36-42) with him on the mound in that period.
I served up that stat to deGrom after Saturday’s loss, only because everyone else has trouble grasping the probability of such a thing. It was like telling him Martians just landed atop the Empire State Building. Or the Mets had a hit with runners in scoring position. But the unflappable deGrom knows the drill. He’s answered a version of that same question a hundred times.
"I haven’t looked at it," he said. "I try to control what I can control and that’s getting ready for my next start, so I hadn’t seen that stat. These guys are great and they’re going out there giving 100%."
If I’m deGrom, I’m not looking at those long-haul numbers, either. He wants to sleep at night. For anyone to survive this long in Flushing and perform at such an elite level for eight years without the satisfaction of even a modest win total, you need the patience of a saint.
As meaningless as the W-L stat is to gauge a pitcher’s performance, that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be nice for the Mets to pull one out on occasion for deGrom. After all, they are wearing the same uniform.
"He knows that we’re not trying to go out there and sabotage him," Brandon Nimmo said.
That’s something, I guess. The Mets are way past the point of apologizing.
In his first two starts, deGrom has a 0.64 ERA with two walks and 21 strikeouts in 14 innings. He is 0-1 with a no-decision. Not that any of this should be surprising.
Well, maybe some parts. Only once before had a pitcher lost with an almost identical line to deGrom’s Saturday outing — the Rays’ James Shields, who struck out 15 with zero walks and one run against the Orioles in 2012.
In 185 career starts, deGrom has allowed one or zero runs 87 times. The list goes on and on, but we’re running out of space.
"Tomorrow’s a new day," deGrom said.
It’s every fifth one that he should be worried about. Because the painful plot twists for this Mets hero never seem to end.