Last night, Jacob deGrom put the finishing touches on a phenomenal first half with his fourth start of seven or more scoreless innings. Against the Philadelphia Phillies, who came into the contest a game ahead in the NL East, deGrom managed eight shutout innings, striking out seven and allowing just five hits and one walk to lower his season ERA to 1.68 and WHIP to 0.973.
Although the Mets couldn’t put forward a single run of support through those eight innings, deGrom allowed just two men to reach scoring position. He threw 75 of his 113 total pitches for strikes, and didn’t allow a single line-drive hit the entire night.
His performance tied him in the Met history books with Dwight Gooden for the best first-half ERA in a season, and is the lowest figure in a single season since Zack Greinke managed 1.39 in 2015. Of course, at 5-4, deGrom doesn’t project to come close to the 24 wins Gooden amassed in that historic 1985 campaign, but the righty remains completely unfazed:
“When I’m out there I try to think it’s 0-0,” he admitted. “That’s kind of the thought process. It’s the mindset I’ve had since I started pitching.”
DeGrom retired his first four batters of the evening on just seven pitches, and needed just 14 overall through his first two innings.
Odubel Herrera posed a threat in the fourth inning when he singled and stole second base to kick things off, but to nobody’s surprise, deGrom responded by working two routine flyouts and striking out Scott Kingery with a high fastball that sat 95-97 mph the entire night, complemented by a sharp slider that topped out at 94 mph at one point. An Andrew Knapp double with two out in the fifth inning was the only other roadblock, and just as he did before, deGrom rose to the occasion, mixing in his curveball and changeup against Cesar Hernandez to work out a flyout to center.
“I think the most impressive part is his ability not to worry about the lack of offense behind him, whether he’s getting wins or not,” said manager Mickey Callaway in the postgame. “It’s impressive. Most people can’t sit there and weather the storm like that…
“He should be starting the All-Star Game, there is no doubt in my mind,” he added. “If he’s not, that’s the wrong decision.”
With the mid-summer classic being held in Washington, D.C., it was going to take a nuclear meltdown for Max Scherzer to be denied the start, and to his credit, Scherzer is having another incredible year. However, his 2.33 ERA this year pales in comparison when we note that deGrom’s ERA hasn’t gone north of two since April 30th. Jacob still ranks first in the National League in ERA and FIP (2.30), and second in strikeouts (149) and WHIP (0.973).
In two-strike counts, opposing hitters have managed just a .118/.173/.161 line, and are hitting .122/.196/.183 with runners in scoring position. With two outs, that periphery shrinks to .091/.130/.182. Luckily, Philadelphia didn’t need to worry about the latter two figures, as they were unable to find such an opportunity the rest of the night.
While a leadoff walk to Rhys Hoskins in the sixth inning had eery parallels to some of deGrom’s previous experiences tiring out in the middle innings, the crisis was quickly averted, as the ace induced a popout from Herrera and notched strikeouts of both Carlos Santana and Nick Williams to put things back into perspective.
Despite an 18-pitch seventh inning that, although scoreless, didn’t seem as clean a build off of the rest of the night, deGrom went out to his spot on the mound in the eighth, and to no one’s surprise, pitched a three-up, three-down inning, complete with two more strikeouts against the top of the Phillies’ order.
Brandon Nimmo‘s walk-off three-run homer in the tenth inning ended the night on a (very) positive note, and hopefully can carry the Mets out of the first-half in better spirits than they were entering last night’s contest.