deGrom on dominating run entering Game 3
Righty won both postseason starts to carry Mets into NLCS
CHICAGO -- The video is all right there, available at Jacob deGrom's fingertips if he were to want it. This time, however, he has no interest.
deGrom's start in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Tuesday (air time 7:30 p.m. ET on TBS, game time at 8 ET) may be his third against the Cubs this season, but reviewing the first two will not be a part of the prep. Why bother reliving the slips, he said, when there is so much good from his sophomore season to seize instead?
"I'm going to flush that," deGrom said on the eve of his third postseason start. "I know this is the playoffs, so it's going to be a good start for me."
Having already pitched the Mets into the NLCS, deGrom can now push New York to the brink of its first NL pennant since 2000 after they won Game 2, 4-1, Sunday night. Behind wins from Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard at Citi Field over the weekend, the Mets hand deGrom a 2-0 series lead that, under the best-of-seven LCS format, has led to a World Series appearance for 22 of the 25 teams to previously win the first two games.
deGrom will be facing a Cubs team that knocked him around twice this year, with deGrom allowing four runs without finishing six innings in both first-half starts.
What the 27-year-old prefers to dwell on is the much more recent, the part where he outpitched the Dodgers' two Cy Young Award candidates, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, to extend the Mets' season. He'll draw Chicago's Kyle Hendricks as a mound opponent on Tuesday night, when the NLCS shifts to Wrigley Field. But deGrom won't so much be pitching against Hendricks as he will simply figuring out how to get by with whatever he has.
Like the rest of the Mets' young starters, deGrom, weeks ago, stepped into uncharted workload territory. His innings log sits at 204, 64 1/3 more than he threw during his NL Rookie of the Year Award-winning run in 2014. Adrenaline has helped, deGrom acknowledged, but so has his understanding of how he can make less-than-his-best stuff still be good enough.
"When you go out on the mound and you do not have your normal repertoire of pitches that are working, you've got to work hard," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "And a lot of guys just throw their hands up and say, 'Geez, I didn't have it tonight.' It takes that special guy to say I'm still getting through this game. I'm going to make the pitch I have to make."
The Mets marveled at deGrom's ability to do so last Thursday when, pitching in a win-or-go-home game against the Dodgers, he gutted through six innings without much command of his fastball. Leaning heavily on the curveball, deGrom recovered from a two-run first to follow with five scoreless innings.
"Jacob, since he's come up, has always been able to do that," Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen said. "He has such a calm, easy demeanor, trusts his stuff, knows he can throw the baseball across the plate. The biggest part of that is I would like him not to be in so much trouble. I'd like him to have the same focus before he gets into trouble as he does when he gets into trouble."
That start was, as deGrom, Collins and Warthen agreed on Monday, an even better performance than his Game 1 outing in which deGrom twirled seven scoreless innings. To them, context mattered.
"It was unbelievable how many times he was one pitch away from coming out of that game, and he made the pitch he had to make, and that tells you exactly the kind of kid he is," Collins added. "His competition level is, without question, as good as anybody's."
Rising up to the magnitude of the stage is no new occurrence for deGrom, whose budding career has already been dotted with big moments. For a pitcher who made his Major League debut in the Subway Series, there was little ease in process. And so it's been, the bigger the stage, the grander the performance, it seems.
He'll be pitching on normal rest in Game 3, an outing that will supplant all others in the growing list of big-stage starts for the right-hander. There was the debut against the Yankees last year and then the chance to christen Citi Field this season by pitching the team's home opener. On that day, deGrom delivered 6 1/3 scoreless innings in a win over Philadelphia.
Later came his first All-Star Game appearance, one in which deGrom became the first player in All-Star history to strike out three batters in an inning with 10 or fewer pitches. Then there was his pair of NLDS wins, both coming on the road.
"I just try to block everything out once I get on the field," deGrom said of not being overwhelmed by the moment. "Kind of the nerves go away, and it's the same game we've been playing all year. I'm able to think about that and just try to take it one pitch at a time and make the best pitch I can at that time."