PHOENIX -- Jacob deGrom may not have been at home on Monday night, but the chants from a large contingent of Mets fans rang throughout Chase Field.
It was only the final day of May, and there’s still four more months of regular-season baseball to be played. But deGrom continues to look like his usual Cy Young-caliber self -- maybe even better, as unbelievable as that sounds.
deGrom dominated the D-backs over six scoreless innings of two-hit ball in the Mets’ 6-2 win. The right-hander struck out eight and walked none while throwing 70 pitches (51 strikes) in his second start since a two-week stint on the injured list due to right side discomfort.
“He was tremendous,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “You see this guy, it’s almost like he’s getting better and better every time he goes out there.”
deGrom has a 0.71 ERA, the lowest for a qualified pitcher at the end of May since Chris Short (0.64) in 1964, and the fourth lowest through the first eight starts of a season (dating back to 1912 for the National League and 1913 for the American League), per the Elias Sports Bureau.
As soon as the fans started chanting and roaring, deGrom began dotting up the strike zone with heaters. He opened the outing with a three-pitch strikeout of Josh Rojas: 100.2 and 99.9 mph fastballs that were fouled off, then a 101.4 mph heater at the top of the zone that Rojas flailed at and missed.
The Mets’ ace went on to retire the first 13 batters of the game before allowing a one-out single to Carson Kelly in the fifth. Over the first four innings, deGrom threw 10 pitches of 101-plus mph. In the pitch-tracking era (since 2008), no starting pitcher has thrown more in a single game. Two had previously thrown 10 -- the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard (April 18, 2016) and the Royals’ Yordano Ventura (Oct. 3, 2014).
“What we're watching is definitely something special. In my mind, he's in a league of his own,” Arizona starting pitcher Merrill Kelly said. “The fact that he has the stuff that he has and can command it the way that he does, I think, is probably what sets him apart the most. You know, there's a lot of guys in this league that throw 90-100 [mph], but he pitches with it, and it's relentless, and it's every single pitch."
Entering the fifth, deGrom remained perfect. However, as he eases back into action following his time on the IL, the Mets had planned for him to throw only six innings or about 85 pitches.
What would have happened if deGrom had reached that limit with a no-hitter, or potentially even a perfect game, still going?
“I would have wanted to stay out there, but it was something that we had discussed before,” deGrom said. “I guess when I gave up the hit, it made the decision a little easier.”
Run support wasn’t an issue for deGrom on this night, and he helped to make sure of that. After Pete Alonso slapped a two-run single to left in the third -- his second at-bat off the injured list -- deGrom helped himself out with an RBI single in the fourth. He is 9-for-20 at the plate this season, and he’s allowed only 22 hits in 51 innings on the mound.
“I’m trying to be the best hitter, as well,” deGrom said. “I don’t want to be an easy out up there.”
Alonso padded the Mets’ lead in the seventh, swatting a two-run homer that made it 5-0 and chased Kelly. It was Alonso’s first four-RBI game since he drove in six on Aug. 15, 2019.
Alonso noted there were plenty of special things about Monday’s victory -- a strong offensive showing, Kevin Pillar’s incredible return, the bullpen closing it out. And of course, deGrom’s outing, which is something the team has seen plenty of before.
“Jake obviously shoved,” Alonso said.
deGrom didn’t do so for as long as he would have hoped, but there’s always his next start.
“We’ll just see how this time goes through, but everything feels good,” deGrom said. “I felt like I could have kept going tonight.”
Perhaps that will lead to a deeper bid for a perfect game or a no-hitter in the future -- or maybe even that National League MVP Award that the fans feel he already deserves.