NEW YORK -- All summer, the Braves have looked up to see, more than any other team, perhaps baseball's best pitcher lined up against them. And all summer they've defied him, often by the slimmest of margins, contributing more than any other opponent to Jacob deGrom's historically disjointed season.
All of which is to say Atlanta has made victories like Friday night's 2-1 nailbiter at Citi Field the oddest type of routine. For the fifth time this season, the Braves managed little against the Major League ERA leader. And for the fifth time in five tries, they won anyway. Atlanta has scored four runs in 33 innings against deGrom this season; they are 5-0 in those games.
"It's such a tough battle when you face him. My God," manger Brian Snitker said. "Do I like playing him? No. Do I like watching him pitch? Absolutely. I love watching him pitch. He's just so good."
The flip side is that Braves starters have spent those contests largely matching deGrom, whose continued lack of run support remains well-chronicled. Five pitchers have now carved through the Mets' lineup opposite him, after winning pitcher Anibal Sanchez joined that list Friday. It was not without poetry that deGrom scratched the Mets lone run off Sanchez across with a single in the third. Sanchez held New York to just one other hit over six innings.
"It's no doubt what kind of season he's had. He is amazing," Sanchez said of deGrom. "For me, I tried to prepare a really good game. I didn't want to make any mistakes. I knew for sure it was going to be a close game."
Sanchez's premonition then played out in real time, as deGrom struck out nine over eight innings, the fourth time in five starts he's pitched that deep into a game. But as they've made a habit of doing, the Braves cashed in on the righty's mistakes, limited as they were.
deGrom called the fastball off the plate inside that Johan Camargo drilled for a solo home run "a good pitch," that he threw "exactly where I wanted." deGrom said of the first-pitch curve Ozzie Albies tagged for the game-winning double: "He just somehow kept that thing fair."
Sanchez, meanwhile, avoided such misfortune. He used two punchouts to limited the damage after deGrom's single in the third, and retired 11 of his final 12 batters before handing the ball to Atlanta's revamped bullpen. Dan Winkler, Jesse Biddle and A.J. Minter then combined to seal the Braves' fifth consecutive win. The win streak matches their season high, though they remain a half-game back in the National League East after the Phillies kept pace with a win over the Marlins.
"We definitely know what elite class [deGrom] is in. It's not lost on us," Camargo said, through team interpreter Franco Garcia. "For us, it's about doing the small things, and we've been able to do that when we face him."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Flashing the leather: With runs at a premium, two standout defensive plays by Nick Markakis in right field proved all the more vital.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
One of the few hitters with consistent success against deGrom, Freddie Freeman found himself on base twice Friday. Freeman punched a single to left in the first and earned a walk in the third; it was after the base on balls that things turned adventurous. Freeman had to go to the ground to avoid a line drive off the bat of Markakis, collapsing in the baseline to avoid what screamed into right for a single.
Markakis struck the ball with a 97.6 mph exit velocity and a 7 degree launch angle, per Statcast™, sending it on a beeline toward the 6-foot-5 Freeman. Both were all smiles after the first baseman's acrobatics.
Among pitchers who have started at least five games without a win against any one team in a season, deGrom's 1.09 ERA against the Braves ranks second-lowest in Major League history. That mark checks in just percentage points lower than the one deadball-era pitcher Earl Moore posted in 1911 for the Phillies in five starts against the Cubs.
HE SAID IT
"It's just another pitcher to them. They are confident in their abilities and I don't think they get awed by any situation. They feel like they belong here, and they are very confident they are right where they should be." -- Snitker, on rookies Acuna and Albies producing against deGrom
Acquired from the Orioles minutes before Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, Kevin Gausman (5-8, 4.43 ERA) will make his first start in a Braves uniform when this series continues Saturday. Atlanta hopes the righty, who spent his entire career in the American League East, provides depth to a rotation that figures to be heavily worked in the weeks to come. Gausman's first assignment comes opposite Zack Wheeler (5-6, 4.11), who remained in Queens at the Deadline despite being the subject of many trade rumors. First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. ET.