Death, taxes, Adam Sandler’s cringe-worthy movies, and Cy Young Award candidate Jacob deGrom – with a quality start to his name, no less – getting completely sandbagged by his team. These are the four things that are all but guaranteed in this life.
In defense of the other eight men in the lineup with him (even though maybe three of them deserve such an honor), deGrom’s sixth inning of work was certainly an outlier in terms of both efficiency and accuracy, and rightfully marked the end of his day. The Florida native had the Miami Marlins pinned under his thumb through the first five innings, striking out seven while allowing just three baserunners, one a hit batsman and the other two reaching on ground-ball singles in an otherwise immaculate collection of 57 pitches. This was not at all the case in his final frame.
In a sixth inning that turned his 2-0 lead into (by our humiliatingly diminished standards) an insurmountable 3-2 deficit, deGrom began by striking out pinch-hitter J.B. Shuck. His next hitter, Derek Dietrich, reached on a conveniently-placed grounder to Amed Rosario, who had no other choice but to spear it on the dive. deGrom could be seen stretching in-between pitches in the at-bat, and again as he prepared to face right fielder Brian Anderson. He later admitted to “hitting a wall” in the sixth, most likely a result of fatigue.
Anderson turned on a weak 2-2 changeup, sending it over the left-field fence to tie the game. One 6-3 groundout later, deGrom walked Justin Bour on four pitches and shortly thereafter yielded a line-drive hit by Starlin Castro, putting runners on the corners. JT Riddle rolled over on a quality slider, but reached with a single after Wilmer Flores took his time getting to it at first base, ultimately flailing for a late, empty tag and hanging his starter out to dry.
His last pitch thrown resulted in a sharp left field lineout off the bat of Lewis Brinson that further confirmed deGrom’s need of a reprieve and after the 27-pitch sixth inning, the 30-year old admitted that he felt like he had nothing left to give, despite finishing the game having only thrown 84 pitches.
“They came and said, ‘Do you have much left?’ I said, ‘I don’t have much left.’ And he’s like, ‘Well, do you want to go back out?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t think I have much left for you. I’m sorry.’”
The Mets’ ace was again punished despite giving his team every chance (and then some) to win a game. Since April 21, deGrom has made 11 quality starts out of a possible 13, posting a 1.43 ERA, yet winning just three such contests and losing four. He has a 4.73 K/BB ratio in this time, and his team has returned the favor by going 3-10.
This afternoon’s loss, in all its embarrassing horror, felt like a carbon copy of the other nine aforementioned deGrom losses that preceded it. As if the Mets’ chronic failure to execute against a team that has done seemingly everything in its power to occupy the bottom of the division was enough of a talking point, deGrom again appeared to have complete control before a few ground balls and one fatal miscue soiled things.
Just two Marlins hitters managed to put a ball in play and in the air through the first five innings, and deGrom only pitched in four hitters’ counts in this time, hashing out two strikeouts in response. DeGrom managed to retire eight in a row after hitting Dietrich in the third and didn’t look back until Dietrich came back up and found a hole to key the sixth-inning rally.
Even so, the Riddle groundball itself was exactly the sort of contact a pitcher looks for in such a dire spot. Whatever hadn’t clicked for the righty through that inning, deGrom – as he always has – adapted and made a crucial pitch that backfired on him in the most gutless way imaginable.
Perhaps the most humble pitcher to don a Met uniform in my lifetime, deGrom himself seems to have reached his limit, saying, “I’m tired of losing, to be honest.” Between this subtle admission and his brief yet tense exchange with an umpire in a home start last week, it’s become clear that deGrom, like the rest of us, is out of patience.
Considering the unspecified family matters he had to attend to the night before, the dopey trade rumors he has been forced to address, and the clear exhaustion that came over him mid-start, it’s yet another testament to deGrom’s winning attitude that he even stayed to answer questions after the game.
Add in the fact that his ego (or lack thereof) has been beaten and subdued by his own team, which just wrapped up a 5-21 June (the worst month in its 57-year history), and there’s no longer a forum to feel bad for deGrom. Rather, all that can be felt is abject, interminable rage, knowing his talents are being thrown against a wall.