As the weather is warming up, Jacob deGrom’s pitches are finding deHeat again.
Throughout the first two months of the season, deGrom has had issues with velocity starting in spring training. He also dealt with a minor back injury, and he was dealing with family issues with the birth of his son in the first month of the season.
The concern on velocity was borne out by the fact that deGrom was not getting the strikeouts that he is accustomed to in his first seven starts, with only two outings of five or more K’s.
In his last two starts entering Wednesday, he racked up seven each against the Brewers and Dodgers. The start against Milwaukee, on May 21, was tough as he gave up four runs on five hits in just five innings, and rebounded with a sterling outing against the Dodgers last Friday, with one run on three hits in seven innings.
Mets Manager Terry Collins said on Wednesday morning of deGrom’s velocity coming back and how he was affected by the workload of last season, “I totally think that, no question, he was better the last time. I’ll tell you the one thing that, as his velocity comes up, you know, the thing that makes this guy so good is the command of his stuff, and I don’t want him to try to overthrow and lose the command of his pitches because, you’re seeing right now, if he’s down in the zone where he normally is, he has easy innings. We all get caught up in the number of pitches, I still think it’s the command that’s gonna make him successful.
“We’re getting hammered here late in the games by guys that have got good arms, but leave the balls on the inner half of the plate. Late in the game, that’s a bad area to throw to. If Jake makes his pitches, and if his velocity is back, he’s going to be great, if not, he’s still going to get us deep into games.”
On Wednesday afternoon against the White Sox, deGrom might have turned in his best outing of the season.
deGrom started off the game by striking out Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu and that was a sign of things to come.
With superb command, deGrom did not allow a hit until there was one out in the fourth inning, when Abreu broke through for a single. deGrom then struck out Todd Frazier and Abreu was cauight stealing on a great throw from catcher Rene Rivera for the inning-ending double play.
deGrom got two more strikeouts in the sixth inning to preserve the Mets 1-0 lead. The Mets loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth, but Rene Rivera struck out to end it. that inning took about 20 minutes because of a review of a fan interference call when James Loney was up and Chicago made a pitching change within the frame.
The seventh inning began with Frazier hitting a monster home run to left to tie the game at 1.
After Melky Cabrera grounded out, Brett Lawrie hit a rocket off Mets second baseman Todd Walker’s glove and it skipped into the outfield. Lawrie, who ran hard out of the box, stretched it into a double. J.B. Shuck followed by working out a walk as deGrom passed 100 pitches on the afternoon.
Tyler Saladino then swung at the first pitch and lined it to left field, and Michael Conforto made a nice play to corral the line drive for the second out.
deGrom ended his day in style, with a strikeout of Alex Avila, and that gave him 10 strikeouts on the day, most of this season and the most since August 29, 2015 against another American League team, the Red Sox.
Despite deGrom’s dominance, he got his fifth straight no-decision as the Mets went on to lose in 13 innings, 2-1.
Collins said of deGrom after the game, “He made some very good pitches today. I thought he had better life on the ball today, and obviously when you get to 110 pitches and still you make a big pitch to get out of an inning. This kid, he really battles, he really battles. When you’re living on the edge, and you’re got one run to work with, it’s tough for pitchers because they really have to focus and you can’t make mistakes, and he didn’t make many mistakes.”
The Mets went 2-4 on this homestand, and their offense is suffering without David Wright, Lucas Duda, and Travis d’Arnaud.
Collins said of deGrom’s performance in this one and Matt Harvey’s outing on Monday being positives to take away from this series, “Yeah, it’s a big positive. We’re still going to be okay, we just got to grind out some on the offensive side, but we’re going to be fine. Our pitching’s going to come, as you saw last year when the pitching gets going, we get rolling.”