If the Mets are going to reach the playoffs this year, they’ll need Jacob deGrom to give more than his pitching arm’s apparently allowing right now.
For all the good will the Mets have brought upon themselves, with winning nine of their last twelve games, the fact still remains their starting rotation resembles a M.A.S.H. unit.
Earlier this year, the Mets lost their ace Matt Harvey to injury. Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz are pitching through bone spurs, it remains to be seen if Matz returns from his latest trip to the disabled list. Zach Wheeler, still recovering from Tommy John surgery, never even made it to the season.
When the Mets decided to skip deGrom’s last start it set off alarms around Citi Field that have become all too familiar whenever a player injury is announced.
It made sense to give deGrom a blow, the numbers indicated as much. He was lit up in his two previous two starts and something needed to be done.
The skipped start was just a precaution to give deGrom a rest and a chance to perhaps clear his head. Well, it didn’t work.
The Marlins salvaged the rubber game of a four-game set against deGrom and the Mets with a 6-4 victory at Citi Field Thursday night.
DeGrom’s labored through 102 pitches in five innings of work, giving up three runs on six hits. He showed flashes of the power pitching we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from him, that’s all it was though. It was just flashes.
DeGrom struck out six batters, however he walked a season-high four. His control was erratic and his body language showed the signs of a frustrated pitcher who can’t locate the stuff which brought him to the big show in the first place.
DeGrom acknowledged after the game he’s having trouble locating his fastball, however, he’s adamant about that not being injury-related.
“I think it’s mechanical,” deGrom said. ” Like I said I feel fine. I got tired towards the end. I’m falling off so hard to the first base side, if you look back at film from last year I feel like I could throw the ball and almost stand there on my land leg. There’s no even close to doing that this year. It’s falling off hard to the first base sign.”
Frustration has set in. Not just deGrom, but for Mets manager Terry Collins too.
“Well it’s quite obvious. When you walk four guys, he was behind the count and threw a lot of pitches in five innings. That’s not Jacob,” said a visibly perplexed Collins afterwards. “That’s the thing we’ve been watching, that his command is not what it has been and that’s been the big issue.”
DeGrom’s command issues are a big concern to the Mets, however, what’s behind those issues is a question which won’t go away until he’s shown they’re no longer worth discussing.
One thing is for certain, the Mets can’t afford another injury to a key player. The pitching staff isn’t the only department the Mets are hurting in.
The lineup will be without Neil Walker for the remainder of the season due to his decision, which was the right one, to have back surgery. Yoenis Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera are nursing a quad and knee respectively.
This team, despite only being two games back in the wild card race, are the walking wounded.
deGrom, along with Syndergaard will have to gear up and find a way to pitch this team into October.
If nothing’s physically wrong with deGrom then it’s up to him to put the mental aspect of his game back together and he’ll have to do it sooner than later.
“Jacob deGrom is a huge piece,” said Collins. “You can’t lose three-fifths of your rotation that coming out of Spring Training was arguably as good as any in the Major Leagues. You can’t lose three-fifths of them and still be in good shape.”
Injuries and the Mets in 2016 fit together like a hand in a glove, that’s the unfortunate reality. But Collins knows this M.A.S.H. unit is just about out of band-aids.