Jacob deGrom, an ace of all aces
As great of a year Jacob deGrom had for the Mets in 2015, he seemed to have saved his best for October.
DeGrom put on a display of sheer brilliance on Friday night. He didn’t outlast Clayton Kershaw but he most certainly out pitched him in one of the great postseason pitching performances in Mets history.
He allowed only five hits and a walk while striking out 13 Dodger hitters in seven innings. Two of those hits were the result of misplays on the part of Michael Cuddyer on two flyballs to left field.
deGrom tied Tom Seaver’s mark of 13 strikeouts set in game one of the 1973 National League Championship Series against the Reds.
What’s more, he accomplished this feat and delivered the club’s first playoff victory since game six of the 2006 National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium and against Kershaw, a building Los Angeles won 55 games in this season.
He was sensational.
‘We had a good game plan,” deGrom explained. “We came up with one before and me, Dan and Travis, and I tried to execute that to the best of my ability tonight.”
He was clearly amped up, averaging nearly two miles per hour faster on his fastball throughout the entire night. But he was contained and channeled his energy thanks to outstanding command on a brilliant array of change-ups and sliders.
His change-up was particularly dominating, and that just made his fastball appear even more electrifying. He threw 11 of them and induced five swings and misses on that pitch.
It was an epic performance from the 27-year-old right-hander.
“My changeup was good tonight, and I threw a few strikeouts to the lefties, but also was locating my fastball pretty good too,” he explained after the game. “So I think just trying to keep them off balance and get ahead.”
He admitted to being nervous before his first playoff start.
“Once I got out there warming up, I kind of settled down. I think it really went away after the first pitch I threw,” he explained.
There are three parts to any ace in baseball. There’s the talent, which a lot of pitchers have throughout all levels of every organization. There are plenty of people nobody will ever see who can throw their fastball 98 mph and a slider 91-92 mph, just like deGrom.
But that’s where the second and third parts come in, the second of which is an ability to harness that talent and pitch to that talent to not only get to the big leagues, but strive and succeed in the big leagues.
Then, there’s an ability to do it in the postseason. Again, there have been plenty of pitchers to come along who have devastating stuff who ultimately are a cut short on the big stage.
It’s that intangible, that fearless hunger to stay up on ones feet and not stumble even in the harshest of blows to the chest and win under the toughest of circumstances.
Jacob deGrom is that guy. He’s that guy anyone should want out there for a game one, or a decisive game five or seven in a playoff series.
He showed on Friday night nothing can knock him down.
He’s quiet, he’s humbled, and he goes about his business in a workman-like manner with not too much flair. He does what he can to avoid that spotlight and focus simply on the task at hand, which is to pitch and win.
He did that and outlasted a pitcher superior to most who have ever put on the uniform on Friday night on his turf.
For three hours anyway, deGrom owned his turf. And Kershaw and the Dodgers had more seventh inning problems in the postseason when he issued three walks, and Pedro Baez coughed up two of those runners when he allowed a two-run single to David Wright.
“I got out pitched. That’s basically the moral of the story,” Kershaw said on Friday night.
And to think the Mets could conceivably have more pitchers just like him in the stable right now, all of which are capable of out pitching Kershaw on any given night, just as deGrom did.
It’s unlikely now deGrom will be brought back on short rest in game four thanks to his 121-pitch performance on Friday, Terry Collins said on Friday night.
But the Mets may want to save him for a game five, just in case anyway.Why wouldn’t they after what he did on Friday night?