With a key mechanical adjustment, deGrom was back to being deGrom on Wednesday
In the middle of all the hoopla of the Mets three-game sweep of the Nationals in Washington this week was Jacob deGrom, who entered his start on Wednesday a struggling pitcher over his last three starts.
DeGrom was in the midst of his second bump in what has otherwise been an incredibly good year for the sophomore. Over his three previous starts before Wednesday, deGrom had allowed 26 base runners in only 14 2/3 innings, 12 of which had scored along with three home runs.
His sluggishness could have been the result of fatigue, although deGrom debunked that as a theory after his start on Wednesday night. The organization has even considered it as a possibility, so much so they’re trying to find a turn through the rotation in which deGrom can be skipped.
And if the Mets continue to expand their lead in the National League East, perhaps they could find an opportunity to get deGrom the rest they feel will be required ahead of what they hope is a deep playoff run next month.
“If we could do it I think it would be a preference,” Sandy Alderson said on Wednesday. “Just general, giving him a break, I think it would be a good idea, as it would be for most.”
But on Wednesday night, deGrom showed he was at least physically sound with 169 innings on his ledger, as he notched seven innings while allowing only a first inning solo home run to Bryce Harper, a double to Harper and an RBI single to Clint Robinson in the fourth inning, and three hits sprinkled in between of what really was a vintage-deGrom outing.
“Harper got me early, I threw the pitch where I wanted to. I just have to tip my cap to him on that one,” DeGrom explained. “I just wanted keep us in that ballgame.”
We feel we are never out of a game, so I tried to keep it close, and the offense came through there.”
The right-hander said on Wednesday he worked in between starts on the positioning of his body while in the leg kick, making sure not to begin his movement towards the plate too soon, an issue he felt was negatively impacting him in his previous three starts.
“I think just trying to stay over the rubber more instead of rushing out,” he said. “That’s what he kind of worked on. I was jumping towards the plate and not letting my hands separate over the rubber.”
DeGrom what challenged with matching Stephen Strasburg on the mound, who with a viscous curveball, kept the Mets bats quiet well into the seventh inning.
“He was throwing the ball great. I knew that and I just wanted to keep it close,” he said.
And he did just that, mostly matching Strasburg pound-for-pound outside of losing two match-ups with Harper, who was hitless in this series until he homered off deGrom in the first inning. He had the late electricity and movement on his fastball which seemed to be missing in his previous three starts. He was effectively moving it up and down and riding it away from the left-handed hitters in particular. He also had Jayson Werth completely overmatched, especially on fastballs up and away to him.
But it was both his slider and change-up which made his fastball extra-effective, as he induced a total of eight swings-and-misses on 34 of those pitches combined, which complimented his electric four-seam fastball – which topped out at 98 mph – beautifully right from the start.
So if there’s one thing deGrom demonstrated on Wednesday, he isn’t tired physically.
“I feel good,” the right-hander said. “I think this time last year I was getting tired. But experiencing that last year has helped me prepare for this year, and I feel good.”
DeGrom left the game for a pinch hitter in the eighth inning, during which the Mets tied and took the lead thanks to home runs from Kelly Johnson and Yoenis Cespedes. The Mets would not relinquish the lead, which instantly transformed from a well fought loss into a much deserved 13th win of the season for the Mets co-ace, and the victor in what likely could be a decisive three-game sweep of the Nationals.
Said deGrom: “That was the goal coming in, winning all three of these. That’s what we ended up doing.”
If the Mets are going to go anywhere in October, they’re going to need more of what they got out of deGrom on Wednesday night. He showed once again he can adjust, flex his muscle, and step up to the challenge to win a big game for the club when it matters most with his performance on Wednesday. With Matt Harvey’s status a complete unknown, it puts more weight on deGrom to be the club’s horse going forward, but he’s shown tremendous poise and maturity all year long, clearly undeterred by even the most minor mid-season slump.
Of course, it helps when the Mets are winning and supporting these efforts, which they did on Wednesday night.
“Its fun being on this team right now,” deGrom said with a chuckle.
And if he’s right, and the offense continues to click the way they have for the last six weeks, he could be having a lot more fun as the leaves begin to change over the next month.