deGrom's scoreless streak ends in Mets' loss

July 30th, 2020

NEW YORK -- For most of his six innings on Wednesday, was at his eye-popping best. Twice in the first, he hit 101.1 mph on the radar gun -- the fastest pitches of his career, and the fastest by anyone in Major League Baseball since 2017. By the fourth he had extended his career-best streak of scoreless innings to 31.

By the seventh, deGrom was sitting on the bench with a lead -- a scene that might unsettle any Mets fan with a sense of recent history. The Mets, rather infamously, struggle to support deGrom, who entered the game with only 66 wins in 172 career starts despite a 2.61 ERA and two National League Cy Young Awards. And so it was likely with a rueful look that he watched the end of the Mets’ 6-5 loss to the Red Sox, whose late-inning rally proved more potent than that of the Mets.

“He’s a great pitcher,” said reliever Justin Wilson, who allowed three runs in the eighth to take the loss, “and probably should have a better record than he does.”

It’s not as though deGrom was perfect in this one. He allowed consecutive doubles to Rafael Devers and Mitch Moreland in the fourth inning, snapping a career-high run of 31 consecutive scoreless innings. That streak, which dated back to last Sept. 9, fell just shy of R.A. Dickey’s franchise-record 32 2/3 scoreless innings in 2012, though deGrom is about the last pitcher conscious of such history lessons when he takes the mound.

deGrom bemoaned the two-run fourth inning more because it put the Mets at risk of a loss -- a frequent occurrence in games he starts. In 2018, despite deGrom producing one of the most statistically dazzling seasons in modern Major League history, the Mets lost more of his starts than they won. In 2019 that trend repeated itself. This year, even with the most potent lineup they’ve featured in more than a decade, the Mets are 1-1 in deGrom’s two outings.

He’s allowed two runs total.

“Clearly, Jake keeps us in the game all the time,” Wilson said. “That’s why he’s a two-time Cy Young winner. We’ve got to put up more runs for him. We’ve also got to shut him down as the bullpen goes.”

The bullpen did not do that on Wednesday. In the seventh inning, after deGrom departed, the usually reliable Seth Lugo allowed a game-tying homer to Christian Vázquez. An inning later, with three consecutive lefties due to bat for Boston, manager Luis Rojas turned to Wilson rather than right-handed setup men Dellin Betances or Jeurys Familia.

Pitching for the fourth time in six games, Wilson allowed a bloop single that landed in front of J.D. Davis, then walked two batters (one intentionally) to load the bases before allowing a go-ahead RBI bleeder to Moreland. Vázquez followed with a clean two-run single, leaving the Mets in need of a rally.

They got one, thanks to Yoenis Céspedes' homer in the eighth inning and consecutive walks to open the ninth. But with the bases loaded, Michael Conforto and Céspedes struck out to allow Red Sox closer Brandon Workman to hang on for the save.

“You want to be a hero in that situation,” Rojas said. “It’s understandable that those things sometimes happen.”

What frustrates many around the team is that these things seem to happen most often to deGrom. Pete Alonso, who singled during the ninth-inning rally to finish 4-for-4, chalked it up to the Mets usually facing another team’s ace -- in this case, Nathan Eovaldi -- on days when deGrom pitches. That’s less true in reality than it is in theory, and it also doesn’t explain the Mets’ bullpen struggles behind their ace.

Ask deGrom, and he dismisses talk of his win-loss record. He’s far more concerned about the team’s record than his own scoreless streak, his fastball velocity or any other individual nugget.

“I was trying not to give up any runs,” deGrom said, never once mentioning that the Mets could have done more to help him, too.