(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
It is September and the New York Mets have the comfortable lead in the NL East. So manager Terry Collins and GM Sandy Alderson are busy behind the scenes plotting the possible postseason roster plans with 18 games left to play. And unless the Mets suddenly have an epic collapse, the magic number to clinch their first division title in nine years remains at 10 after a one-sided 9-3 loss to the Miami Marlins Tuesday night at Citi Field.
One of the decisions is how to schedule a starting pitching staff in the remaining games, revolving of course on how much work has to be put in for that inevitable October playoff run. Matt Harvey for now, as assumed will miss another start and when he does take the mound not exceed more than what he has thrown.
Than there is Noah Syndergaard who will get the ball Saturday afternoon at Citi Field against the Yankees, and Steven Matz who will open the subway series Friday night. The final equation is Jacob deGrom who may be at the point of skipping a start or two, and Tuesday night the question was asked to Collins:
Does deGrom, who has been the Mets; best starter need some rest in order to preserve his arm for postseason baseball? And it becomes a more legitimate question after deGrom gave up six runs in 5.0 innings as the Marlins got to the righthander scoring three runs in the fourth, and three more in the fifth inning.
The ERA is now at 2.64, and in his past five starts deGrom has seen the number rise to 6.41. Certainly this is something the Mets don’t want to see in mid September as they look ahead to October, adding to the fact that this was one of those rare games the Mets were never in, and it was attributed to deGrom not having location with the fastball.
One of those rare starts also when deGrom was ahead in the count and could not get the job done, especially when the count was 0-2.
“It was just a start where in the fourth and fifth inning , I couldn’t locate the ball and left it over the middle,” he said. “I felt fine early in the game.” But now he has thrown a career high 181 innings, and that leads to questions about a pitcher who may be tired and needs to skip a start or maybe two.
And before the Mets get into another Matt Harvey situation with a limit of innings, and by no means is this similar to that controversial escapade of last week, there has to be concern. In his National League Rookie of the year season of last year, deGrom tossed 178-⅔ innings combined with Triple A Las Vegas and the Mets. Perhaps the innings this year have taken a toll ,though the fastball which he has not been using as much was clocked at 93, and not at 98.
Collins said, “We’ve gotta make sure we get the ball down in the zone. That’s where he’s been struggling lately. He’s left a lot of balls up and been hurt.” The Marlins hurt deGrom and the Mets in five innings with ten hits, and though the Mets have the comfortable lead in the division that was still a tough hill to climb.
And before Mets fans start talking about a collapse, there is a difference this time and that is the comfortable lead and the Nationals have to play .700 baseball to make that happen. But the Mets have to get deGrom back on track and that will be a priority when and if a next start is scheduled.
“The one thing we cannot forget is we are in a pennant race,” Collins said. “We are at the end of the season. We do not need to be getting rid of our best pitchers and letting them sit on the side for a while. If we decide to skip him we skip him.. But we’ve got some games in between. We’ll see what goes on.”
Harvey had to be coached by his agent with Scott Boras, and there were doctors involved. And as much as Harvey said he wanted to keep pitching, there was that having to go with the plan as was outlined by Boras. There is every indication that deGrom is tired and that the rest is needed, though he was not advocating to be the next to sit down.
Said deGrom, “I’d like to keep pitching. “I’ve had bad starts before. It’s about how you react after them. I’d like to get back out there.” Though those bad starts were not as consistent. Last week against the Nationals, he went 7.0 innings on two runs and five hits, throwing 102 pitches.
And in that game he gave up a home run ball. Tuesday night there wasn’t a home run ball and the ten hits were a season high, and it was the third time this season he allowed six earned runs. Sometimes allowing a home run is more of an indicator that the location is not there, but the Marlins are not a home run hitting team and get on base with the hit and drawing a walk.
Regardless, Collins is aware that there is a predicament here. Though the Mets are comfortable where they are, and until the magic number reaches zero there is still a division to be won, To skip deGrom during this stretch could be the right decision, then again you don’t want a reliable starter to sit and get rusty.
The decision does not have to come tomorrow as the Mets prepare for the Yankees on Friday. More importantly the Mets need an effective Jacob deGrom with the expected postseason approaching, and he is needed when they get there if they want to go deep into October.
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