NEW YORK -- Among this season's more telling statistics is the fact that, entering Tuesday's play, Jacob deGrom led the Majors in pitches thrown in tied or one-run games. Unleashing more than three-quarters of his offerings in those situations, deGrom fashioned himself into a Cy Young candidate despite rarely being
NEW YORK -- Among this season's more telling statistics is the fact that, entering Tuesday's play, Jacob deGrom led the Majors in pitches thrown in tied or one-run games. Unleashing more than three-quarters of his offerings in those situations, deGrom fashioned himself into a Cy Young candidate despite rarely being afforded the luxury of a mistake.
"You're always in this predicament where one unlucky or lucky instance can cost you the game," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. "It does put more pressure on you to be perfect."
Why would anything change now? One damaging sequence at Citi Field -- an infield hit, a bloop single and a two-run double -- cost deGrom two runs in the Mets' 5-3 defeat to the Marlins on Tuesday, dropping him to 8-9 on the season. In the loss, deGrom submitted his 26th consecutive start of three or fewer runs, breaking Leslie "King" Cole's 108-year-old Major League record.
Cole finished that season 20-4. With just three starts remaining, deGrom cannot win more than 11 games, which would be the lowest of any starter to win the Cy Young Award in an uninterrupted season.
"What can happen, happened tonight when the game's always close," Callaway said. "It's one not even really bad mistake. The player gets lucky and hits a two-run double, and then you lose the game."
Yet deGrom remains a favorite for the National League honor by virtue of his 1.71 ERA, which increased merely three one-hundredths of a run in Tuesday's loss. After issuing a leadoff walk, deGrom retired nine consecutive Marlins, six via strikeout. But he found trouble in the fourth, when Jeff McNeil could not glove Brian Anderson's infield hit up the middle.
The next batter, Derek Dietrich, lofted a soft line drive to left. Then Lewis Brinson hit a 407-foot double to plate two runs, just out of the reach of late-breaking center fielder Austin Jackson.
And that was that. Recovering to retire the final 10 batters he faced, deGrom extended another franchise record with his 21st consecutive quality start, then watched from afar as the Mets, with just four hits of their own until the ninth, sunk his record back under .500. They did not score until Michael Conforto homered with one out in the sixth against Jose Urena, who pitched into the seventh.
"We just hang in there," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "That's the one thing about [deGrom] -- you have to scrap for your hits."
No starting pitcher has ever won the Cy with a losing record, though deGrom's superlative run-prevention statistics, as well as an increasingly progressive voting pool, could make him the first.
Complicating the race is the fact that the Mets, fearing a wet forecast for deGrom's originally scheduled start on Sunday, scratched him from that outing against the Phillies. The Mets and Marlins were rained out the following day, shaving off enough calendar boxes to leave deGrom with just four more starts, including Tuesday.
Before the game, Callaway said he would not consider using deGrom on short rest unless the Mets were contending for a playoff berth. deGrom, whose eyes are trained on a Cy, said he will "definitely lobby" for an extra outing if he thinks it might matter.
"Looking back, hindsight 20/20, I wish I would've pitched Sunday," deGrom said. "But with the report we got, it didn't seem like we were going to be able to play, and we decided that we were going to try to pitch Monday. It just didn't work out."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Rollercoaster ninth: Trailing by one run when deGrom left the game, the Mets at least had a chance to salvage a no-decision for him. That changed when Anthony Swarzak allowed a JT Riddle homer in the eighth inning, and Robert Gsellman coughed up two more runs in the ninth on RBI hits from Anderson and Dietrich.
The rally pushed the Mets into a four-run hole, taking most of the bite out of Kevin Plawecki's two-run homer in the bottom of the inning.
deGrom's 21st consecutive quality start put him one shy of the Major League single-season record (since 1913), which Chris Carpenter (2005) and Bob Gibson (1968) share. He also matched his career high Tuesday with 239 strikeouts, joining Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden as the only pitchers in Mets history to post consecutive seasons of at least that many.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
With his opposite-field, solo homer to left-center in the sixth, Conforto went deep for a third consecutive game. He's the first Mets player to homer in three straight since Yoenis Cespedes last August.
After taking a pair of borderline pitches for strikes in his at-bat in the sixth inning, Todd Frazier barked at home-plate umpire Dan Bellino as he returned to the field for defense. Bellino immediately ejected Frazier, forcing the Mets to shift McNeil to third base and insert Wilmer Flores at second.
"I just thought two pitches were off the plate," Frazier said. "I didn't even need to go back and look. But afterward, I did. I was right. ... I really don't know what else to say besides if I'm right, I'm going to get my money's worth … especially in a close game, and [deGrom's] fighting to get as many wins as he can in the race that he's in, so I'm going to get heated."
HE SAID IT
"In my mind, pitching is all about run prevention. All the things that Jacob has done this year are all about run prevention. He's been by far the best in baseball at it. If you put both leagues together, he should win the Cy Young out of both leagues in my mind, because he's preventing runs better than anyone else in Major League Baseball. I don't know what other people look at, but I want the guy that allows the least amount of runs possible." --Callaway, on the Cy Young race
To make up for Monday's rainout, the Mets and Marlins will play a twi-night doubleheader Wednesday at Citi Field. Zack Wheeler will start the 4:10 p.m. ET opener opposite Trevor Richards, with Jason Vargas facing another rookie right-hander, Jeff Brigham, in the nightcap.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.