deGrom looks to continue road success in KC
Mets righty perfect away from home in playoffs, plans to cut hair after World Series
KANSAS CITY -- Mets starter Jacob deGrom is getting deHair cut.
It will be a matchup of manes in Game 2 of the World Series on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET air time on FOX, 8 p.m. game time) when deGrom starts opposite the Royals' Johnny Cueto, but deGrom said his own flowing locks will hit the floor after the Fall Classic concludes.
"I think mine is gone at the end of the year, so I'll give that award to [Cueto]," said deGrom, who'd been asked which hairdo gets the edge. "It's driving me nuts, I've got to get rid of it."
First, deGrom will make another start or two, beginning with something of a quick turnaround. The Mets' buses did not depart Kauffman Stadium until after 2 a.m. ET, in the wee hours of Wednesday, following the Royals' 14-inning, 5-4 win in Game 1. The Mets were two outs away from taking a 1-0 Series lead before closer Jeurys Familia surrendered a tying home run to Alex Gordon, necessitating 4 1/3 innings of relief from Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon.
For the 27-year-old deGrom, the idea of pitching in the World Series had yet to set in.
"It might set in when I get out there," he said. "This is what we play for. We play to come here, and just to get the chance to make a start in the World Series, it's really awesome."
After watching deGrom battle through a series of starts of late, Mets manager Terry Collins opted to open the World Series with Matt Harvey in Game 1, with deGrom following on one extra day of rest. Collins said he has seen signs of fatigue from deGrom, who has thrown a career-high 211 innings, though that wear and tear has not shown up in the box scores. In three postseason starts, deGrom has limited the Dodgers and Cubs to four earned runs in 20 innings while winning all three games.
"I didn't feel fatigued out there," deGrom said. "I just felt I was having trouble locating, which happened to me early on this year. I don't know if it was fatigue. I feel good now."
Collins sees a connection between deGrom's command issue and his innings count.
"He's at a stage where the ball doesn't have the life down," Collins said. "Even though he has the velocity, it doesn't have the life it once had. He's been missing balls up in the zone. For me, that is that release point, that consistent release point you have to make the pitches. If you start to get a little fatigued, that hand just doesn't catch up sometimes.
"That's why we wanted to give him an extra day, because the last time we pushed him back a little bit, he came out throwing great. We're hoping that extra rest is going to make a difference [Wednesday] night. This guy is as good as there is in the league."
Collins was referring to mid-September, when the Mets gave deGrom a break for one turn in the rotation between Sept. 15 and 27. He returned to hold the Reds and Nationals to one run in 10 innings over his final two regular-season outings. Then, in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, deGrom held the Dodgers scoreless on five hits with 13 strikeouts in seven innings. That strikeout total tied Hall of Famer Tom Seaver's franchise record for a postseason game.
But in two subsequent starts -- against the Dodgers in Game 5 of the NLDS and against the Cubs in Game 3 of the NL Championship Series -- deGrom grinded. In the NLCS, he required 29 pitches to navigate a first inning that included Kyle Schwarber's home run on a pitch well off the plate, but deGrom rebounded to pitch six more innings with only 71 more pitches.
Of those damage-control outings, deGrom said, "They're not as much fun when you're out there, but after you look back on them, to be able to get a team out whenever you are kind of struggling definitely is a little more impressive than when you go out there with your best stuff."
deGrom will bid to become the first pitcher in Major League history to win four times on the road in a single postseason. He's already one of five pitchers with three road wins in one postseason, joining John Smoltz (1996), Freddy Garcia (2005), Cliff Lee ('10) and Madison Bumgarner ('14).
"I've actually enjoyed pitching on the road in the postseason," deGrom said. "You go out there and you're getting booed, and it's fun to try to silence the crowd."
By beating the Cubs, deGrom also joined Jerry Koosman as the only Mets pitchers to win three consecutive postseason starts, and he became the first Mets pitcher and the 20th in big league history to win his first three career postseason starts.
"He's been excellent this postseason," said Mets third baseman David Wright, whose 14th-inning error sparked the Royals' winning rally in Game 1. "Even when he doesn't have his best stuff, he's found ways to win. He's a stopper for us, so we feel good every time he's on the mound."