Jacob deGrom walked off the diamond at Citi Field Monday night to a standing ovation from the scant crowd. The Mets righthander had just turned in a truly dominant performance against the Nationals, his best showing of 2018, striking out 11 over 7.1 innings while allowing just one run — on a Bryce Harper broken-bat homer in the third at-bat of the game. DeGrom exited with a five-run lead and two runners aboard.
What transpired over the next 30 minutes was mind-numbing. The Mets bullpen, one of the best units in all of baseball so far this season, gave up six runs, walking three batters and hitting another. DeGrom’s sensational outing became a footnote in a shocking collapse against a division rival. The Mets lost, 8-6. DeGrom ended up with three earned runs to his name.
“They’re not perfect,” deGrom said of the Mets relievers. “It’s going to happen, and tonight we let one get away.”
But this is a long season, and the Mets bullpen will almost assuredly never have another game like this in 2018. More importantly, deGrom looked like his Cy Young-caliber self on Monday night, showcasing a devastating mix of fastball, changeup and slider. He became the first Mets starter to pitch into the eighth. When he returned to the mound at the start of that inning, he was at 84 pitches, and looked poised to pitch a complete game.
“It was great, against a really good lineup over there,” manager Mickey Callaway said of deGrom. “So if he continues to pitch like that, we’re going to win most of those games, like we should have tonight. That was really good to see. It’s kind of funny: The first guy that goes that deep in the game, and our bullpen’s been so tremendous, picking up four, five innings, that that happens. But that’s baseball.”
Harper’s home run was deGrom’s one real mistake of the night — if you can even call it that. DeGrom jammed Harper with an inside fastball, but the Nationals slugger was able to muscle the pitch over the right-center-field fence despite breaking his bat in half.
“That was pretty shocking,” deGrom said.
Other than that, deGrom was outstanding, cruising through an injury-riddled Nationals lineup. In the eighth, he allowed a leadoff single to Moises Sierra and a one-out single to Trea Turner. Callaway pulled him after Turner reached base, setting up the bullpen implosion.
But deGrom’s performance was certainly a positive in an otherwise crushing night. DeGrom said he made a mechanical adjustment after looking at film, adjusting his motion to allow his arm to “get up,” which created more downward movement on his slider.
“I noticed something that I was doing and it made a big difference, even playing catch,” deGrom said. “So I’ll continue working on that.”
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