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deGrom misses mark against Braves

@AnthonyDiComo
April 15, 2019

ATLANTA -- An uncharacteristic collection of crooked numbers dominated Jacob deGrom’s line Sunday in the Mets’ 7-3 loss to the Braves. Five hits. Three runs. Four walks. One wild pitch. Manager Mickey Callaway called deGrom’s command “much better,” referring to him as “the old Jacob deGrom.” Braves catcher Tyler Flowers

ATLANTA -- An uncharacteristic collection of crooked numbers dominated Jacob deGrom’s line Sunday in the Mets’ 7-3 loss to the Braves. Five hits. Three runs. Four walks. One wild pitch.

Manager Mickey Callaway called deGrom’s command “much better,” referring to him as “the old Jacob deGrom.” Braves catcher Tyler Flowers said that “he looked a lot more normal.” Yet following a second consecutive non-quality start, deGrom’s self-assessment was not quite so rosy.

“I’m not throwing the ball where I want,” he said.

To be clear: The sky is not falling for deGrom, who is a perfectly reasonable 2-2 with a 3.68 ERA through four starts of his National League Cy Young Award defense. Things aren’t entirely auspicious, either. Here’s a look at some key at-bats during deGrom’s five innings at SunTrust Park:

Inning: Third
Batter: Freddie Freeman
Result: Walk

For those who wish to lay blame on home-plate umpire Alan Porter, Freeman’s at-bat in the third inning is Exhibit A. The Braves’ No. 3 hitter took multiple close pitches near the edges of the strike zone, including a 98 mph fastball that deGrom appeared to paint on the outside corner. Freeman kept the bat on his shoulder and Porter awarded him ball four. Last year, such issues wouldn’t affect deGrom much. This year? His next pitch was a slider over the heart of the plate to Ronald Acuna Jr., who bashed it into right field for an RBI single.

“That is what you have to be prepared for against a guy like that,” Flowers said. “You’re not going to be able to hit that backdoor cutter at 95. It’s a little challenging. But you’ve got to be ready for the mistakes.”

Inning: Fourth
Batter: Ozzie Albies
Result: Deep flyout

Here’s a mistake that didn’t wind up hurting deGrom, but that was nonetheless indicative of the way he pitched. After recording two quick outs, deGrom fell behind Albies, 2-0, on two straight fastballs he couldn’t locate in the zone. (One was close to the corner, the other not so much.) deGrom fared better on pitches 3-5, hammering Albies up in the zone. But he could not tempt Albies to chase an extremely high fastball, running the count full, and his seventh offering was his worst miss of the at-bat: an elevated changeup that Albies hit to the warning track in center. Only a spectacular catch by Brandon Nimmo prevented it from going for extra bases.

“They did a great job of running his pitch count up, spoiling a lot of pitches and fouling a lot of balls off,” Callaway said.

Once again, deGrom’s assessment was blunter.

“I’m not really throwing the ball where I want to right now,” he said. “I’m kind of cutting the fastball, yanking the slider. The changeup’s good at times, but other times it’s not. I don’t know if it’s something mechanical. I’ll have to get in [the video room] and figure it out.”

Inning: Fifth
Batter: Josh Donaldson
Result: Home run

Unlike in his last outing, deGrom did not shy away from his slider, throwing 33 of them in five innings. Five of those he delivered to Donaldson in the fifth, including three with two strikes. But his command of the pitch was suspect. deGrom could not entice Donaldson to chase one that dove beyond the outside corner, nor could he prevent the next two from leaking over the heart of the plate. (Donaldson fouled off both.) Unwilling to make it four sliders in a row, deGrom turned from there to a fastball, but poor location allowed Donaldson to punish it over the left-field fence.

“That ball was supposed to be in,” deGrom said. “I left it over the middle.”

Inning: Fifth
Batter: Nick Markakis
Result: Strikeout

The pitch Markakis hit for a homer in the second inning was so well-located -- inside, off the plate -- that deGrom went into the clubhouse during his start to watch it in the video room, trying to understand how Markakis kept it fair. Consider it an anomaly. deGrom struck out Markakis in his next at-bat, then again in the fifth in a vintage sequence. Pounding Markakis up in the strike zone, deGrom generated a called strike and a swinging strike before delivering his fifth pitch just above the zone, tempting enough for Markakis to swing through it. The result was deGrom’s ninth and final strikeout of the night, giving him something to build on heading into his next start.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.