McDonald: The Mets Jacob deGrom’s Greatness Comes Out When He Best Stuff Eludes Him

PHILADELPHIA – It’s a simple baseball adage that goes back throughout the history of the game. Good pitchers dominate when their stuff is on, but great pitchers shut down the other team even when nothing is working.

It doesn’t matter if your name is Koufax, Seaver or Gooden. When the great pitchers don’t have their best stuff working, they still find a way.

Add Jacob deGrom to that list.

Although Noah Syndergaard is considered the team’s ace, deGrom is the more accomplished pitcher, who can pull the key outs out of thin air.

He did it in Game 5 of the NLDS a few years ago and he did it again tonight against the Philadelphia Phillies in the Mets eventual 4-3 win at Citizen’s Bank Park.

“The main thing is to slow down a little it and find pitches when I needed to,” deGrom said. “I got better as the game went on but early on, nothing was working.”

DeGrom threw 31 pitches in the first inning. Walked the leadoff batter, Cesar Hernandez and eventually gave a pass to Cameron Rupp to walk in the second run. He slider didn’t slide and his fastball didn’t move the way he wanted to.

DeGrom said “everything was more lateral tonight,” meaning his pitches, when it the strike zone, were going across the plate. So, he went to his curveball, because it “had more depth to it.” He mixed in more two-seamers as well which allowed him to get on top of the ball.

Apparently, deGrom’s shoulder was flying open a little too soon, which is a common problem for pitchers and may have been the reason he was so ineffective in the first. “I reminded him to keep his front shoulder in and once we got through that inning,” said catcher Travis d’Arnaud to NY Sports Day, “we went in and spoke to (pitching coach) Dan (Warthen) to discuss what he feels and worked on it mechanically.”

Boy, did he find a way. Sixty-five pitches and five innings later, deGrom did his job with just those two runs on six hits for his efforts.

“It’s satisfying to keep the team in it and get a win,” deGrom said. “But you don’t want to have first innings like that. It’s not fun.”

But the Mets are just getting warmed up here. Through seven games, the team – now 4-3 on the young season – isn’t doing anything easy. Hits are a premium, with Jay Bruce putting the offense on his back and manager Terry Collins joking about getting the FBI to “search for the real Jose Reyes.”

That means the Mets will have to rely on their rotation strength. Until the lineup gets settled, the right arms of Syndergaard, deGrom and Matt Harvey give the Mets a chance to win every night. And tomorrow Harvey will need to continue the pitching trinity’s leadership on this club. Even without his best stuff, he needs to keep his team in the game.

It’s the new reality early on and deGrom knows it better than anyone. Tonight, he proved he was one of the greats.

About the Author

Joe McDonald

Joe McDonald is the founder and former publisher of NY Sports Day. After selling to i15Media in 2020, he serves as the Editor-in-Chief and responsible for the editorial side of the publication. In the past, Joe was the managing editor of NY Sportscene magazine and assistant editor of Mets Inside Pitch. He has covered the Mets since 2004.

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