Jacob deGrom made his 22nd start of the season on Friday night against the tied-for-first in the NL East Atlanta Braves, owners of the second-best ranked offense in the National League (.260/.327/.423) behind the Chicago Cubs.
Despite having a sub-.500 win-loss record this season (5-6), the 30-year-old right-hander has undoubtedly forced his name into the NL Cy Young Award conversation.
He came into the night with the best earned-run average among qualified starters in Major League Baseball (1.82 ERA) and the best fielding independent pitching rating in the National League (2.26 FIP; behind only Chris Sale‘s 2.09 FIP for best in MLB).
Jacob deGrom struck out Ronald Acuna, Jr. looking at a 96 MPH tw0-seamer to start things off in the first. Ozzie Albies tried to push a bunt between the pitcher and the third baseman, but Todd Frazier fielded it cleanly and threw him out at first.
deGrom allowed a 2-2, two-out base hit to Freddie Freeman after working his way back into the count after falling behind, 2-0. The Stetson University alum then got Nick Markakis to line out to left field, ending the frame.
After allowing a base hit to Kurt Suzuki to begin the second, deGrom induced a soft fly ball from Ender Inciarte for the second out before Johan Camargo crushed a 97 MPH four-seamer on an extremely inside pitch that ended up two rows into the Coca-Cola seats in right field for the game’s first run.
In deGrom’s case, there’s not much to do in that situation except tip your cap. Camargo crushed a ball that most hitters can’t even touch.
The 30-year-old righty then struck out Charlie Culberson on a rising, 0-2, 96 MPH four-seam fastball to get out of the inning, giving up just the one run on Camargo’s blast.
Jake punched out Braves starter Anibal Sanchez for his third strikeout of the night leading off the third. Acuna and his .837 OPS stroked a single into centerfield, then we were gifted with a sparkling fielding display from one of the most vilified Mets in recent history.
Jose Reyes, starting at the keystone position tonight, made a very nifty play in the hole at second on an Ozzie Albies ground ball, threw it to Jose Bautista at first for one out and Joey Bats gunned it to Frazier at third, just in time to tag out Acuna for an inning-ending 4-3-5 double play.
In yet another case of a Mets pitcher helping out his own cause, deGrom notched his 2nd RBI of the season on a single through the middle that scored Amed Rosario after the 22-year-old Dominican native led off the bottom of the third with a double down the first-base line.
deGrom threw three straight changeups to Freeman leading off the fourth, four in total in the at-bat, before issuing his first walk of the night to the right-handed slugging first-baseman on a full count.
Markakis followed him with Atlanta’s fourth hit of the night, moving Freeman to second and bringing up Suzuki with two on and none out.
Suzuki grounded out softly to Frazier who tagged Freeman en route to third but he spiked the throw to first causing Bautista to bobble it and leaving deGrom with two baserunners again, this time with one out.
Inciarte went down looking at a borderline-low called strike three for the second out, then Camargo had what looked to be a soft infield hit that Reyes, making his second nice play of the evening, fielded cleanly and threw across his body to get Camargo by a step at first. Disaster averted, once again, for Jake.
deGrom set down Culberson to lead off the fifth, his fifth strikeout of the night and 169th of the season, then sent Sanchez down swinging at a 97 MPH heater.
In the next at-bat, Ronald Acuna, Jr. smoked his second hit of the night, a deep drive into the gap in left-center for a two-out double. Albies dropped a double just inside the left-field line for a double of his own, scoring Acuna and giving the Braves a 2-1 lead.
Jake then notched his third strikeout of the inning and seventh of the game on his inning-ending punchout of Freddie Freeman to leave Albies stranded on second.
Heading into the game, deGrom had the sixth-best left-on-base percentage among all qualified MLB pitchers (83.0 percent; Justin Verlander leads with 87.0 percent).
Jacob deGrom began the sixth with just 69 pitches and needed only ten more to retire Markakis, Suzuki, and Inciarte and move on to the seventh. Clearly, there was no fluctuation of LOB% in that inning.
After that clean, economic sixth, deGrom worked a perfect seventh, chalking up his eighth (Culberson) and ninth (Ryan Flaherty) strikeouts of the night.
At 91 pitches, Jake came back out for the eighth inning and finished up strong, getting Acuna and Albies to fly out and induced a soft groundball from Freeman to end his night.
Jacob deGrom’s final line was eight innings pitched (his five such outing in his last nine starts), allowing two earned runs on six hits with one walk and nine strikeouts, giving him 173 on the year. Only Max Scherzer of the Nationals has more strikeouts in the NL (210) than the Mets’ undisputed ace.
Continuing with the overall theme of deGrom’s season, he got no run support whatsoever. But that didn’t stop him from giving his obligatory 110 percent, though.
The 30-year-old has now gone 19 consecutive starts without allowing more than three earned runs (stat courtesy of Anthony DiComo, MLB.com).