WASHINGTON -- There are still some out there who do not consider Jacob deGrom the National League's best pitcher, some who won't be convinced no matter how much evidence surfaces to the contrary. Wins are wins, and they've been around more than a century. To many, they are religion.
Yet it doesn't take a degree in advanced baseball analytics or even a fluency in them to understand deGrom has risen so far beyond his win-loss record as to render it irrelevant. In beating the Nationals, 4-2, on Friday at Nationals Park, deGrom took another step in proving that. He delivered his 23rd consecutive quality start to break a tie with Bob Gibson and Chris Carpenter, setting a single-season Major League record.
Now sporting a 1.77 ERA with one start remaining, deGrom has, for all intents and purposes, locked up the NL ERA title. More and more, the NL Cy Young Award also appears to be a foregone conclusion. deGrom has compiled more consecutive starts of three runs or fewer (28) than anyone in Major League history, and is almost certain to become just the sixth pitcher this century to throw at least 200 innings with a sub-2.00 ERA.
He struck out eight on Friday, increasing his season total to 259, the fifth-highest mark in Mets history; only Dwight Gooden and Tom Seaver ever racked up more. He also can join Pedro Martinez and Christy Mathewson as the only Major Leaguers in the last 110 years to post sub-2.00 ERAs with at least 250 strikeouts and 50 or fewer walks.
"He's just able to do things other guys aren't," Mets outfielder Jay Bruce said.
On Friday, that began with what catcher Devin Mesoraco called one of deGrom's best fastballs of the season -- a signature offering that appears to rise as it reaches home plate, maxing out at 99 mph. It continued with deGrom's league-best knack for run prevention. The only Nats player to score off deGrom did so after he walked the leadoff man in the second inning. Two batters later, Ryan Zimmerman hit a sacrifice fly.
• Mesoraco returns from injury to catch for deGrom
Moments later, deGrom picked Wilmer Difo off first base, then retired 15 of the final 17 Nationals he faced.
"I've been fortunate enough to throw the ball pretty well this year," deGrom said. "I just try to learn from the outings that I've had and go out there and continue to throw the ball well."
The Mets even supported deGrom with offense this time, starting with Bruce's RBI single in the first inning. He hit an RBI double in the third, and Dominic Smith's RBI single and Mesoraco's RBI double followed in the inning. That pushed deGrom's record (9-9) back to .500, potentially sparing him the ambivalence of becoming the first starter in history to win a Cy Young with a losing record.
One start remains for deGrom: Wednesday against the Braves. If he wins, he will finish with a winning record.
"I think he's just getting better and better," Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper said. "He's a special ballplayer. He's one of the best in baseball from both leagues."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Bruce on the loose: Since coming off the disabled list in late August, Bruce has been on a tear, hitting twice as many home runs in his last 25 games (six) as he did in his first 62. Although Bruce did not homer off Nationals starter Joe Ross on Friday, he twice knocked in runs. The second of those, plating Michael Conforto in the third inning, kick-started a rally.
"Last year was arguably the best season in my career," Bruce said. "You don't just forget. … I feel healthy now, and I just look to finish up here on a high note."
Although deGrom enjoyed a rare three-run cushion for most of Friday's outing, he upped his season total to 608 batters faced with the score either tied or the Mets leading or trailing by a run. That is the most in the Major Leagues.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Threatening to undo all of deGrom's early work, the Nationals brought the potential tying run to the plate with one out in the eighth, down by three. Victor Robles hit a ground ball to the left side, where Todd Frazier fielded it and made a move to tag Spencer Kieboom, but threw to second base for a forceout instead. Jeff McNeil then fired the ball back to Frazier, who tagged Kieboom for an unusual 5-4-5 double play.
HE SAID IT
"It's been pretty automatic. He's either going to give up zero or one pretty much every time he goes out. … It's so impressive. Jacob has, in my opinion this year, set himself apart with how he's performed. That's no disrespect to any of the guys who are having great years for the other teams, but Jake has been very dominant this year. … He's very, very boring in the best way possible." -- Bruce, on deGrom
With Zack Wheeler shut down for the year due to his heavy workload, Corey Oswalt will rejoin the rotation on Saturday at Nationals Park. Oswalt, who has already spot started twice this month for the Mets, will oppose right-hander Austin Voth in the 4:05 p.m. ET game.