Only pain in the neck is Jake's 99 mph heat

deGrom returns true to form as Conforto hits clutch HR in 9th

August 20th, 2020

was a sight for sore eyes on Wednesday night. For the Mets, it was more like a sight for sore arms.

The two-time defending National League Cy Young Award winner started for the first time in 10 days after experiencing neck stiffness, and he threw six scoreless innings to give the ailing Mets rotation a huge boost.

deGrom was forced to settle for a no-decision in the Mets’ 5-3 victory despite a seven-strikeout, walk-free effort, but the ace was encouraged with his performance given his lengthy layoff.

“I felt pretty good; not pitching in 10 days, a little rusty,” deGrom said. “I felt better as the game went on, had a better feel for my changeup and even the slider. At first I was spiking some, floating some in there, but I was fortunate enough that the bad ones I threw weren't close enough to swing at. I was able to kind of make the adjustment as the game went on.”

The Mets have won three straight against the Marlins, giving them an opportunity to sweep the four-game series at Marlins Park. Seth Lugo will make his first start since June 2018 on Thursday, replacing Steven Matz in the rotation.

That rotation, which is without David Peterson and Michael Wacha, both on the injured list with shoulder inflammation, happily welcomed back deGrom on Wednesday after he was scratched from last Friday’s start with a stiff neck.

“I definitely don't like when people go down -- and I was one of them,” deGrom said. “Peterson goes down, I definitely wanted to go out there and give us a chance.”

The Marlins put a pair of runners on base in the first as Jesús Aguilar reached on an error and Corey Dickerson singled to left field. But deGrom fanned Matt Joyce with a 99.4 mph fastball, then froze Brian Anderson with a slider.

“I felt like my arm was dragging, but I was still able to locate, so I was able to make an adjustment,” deGrom said. “I felt really good in the bullpen, then when I took the mound, I didn’t feel as comfortable as I had felt in previous starts. I think it's just not pitching in a game for 10 days.”

Of the 18 outs recorded by deGrom, seven were strikeouts, 10 were ground balls and two were infield lineouts. Aside from four singles, no Marlins hitter put the ball in play to an outfielder.

deGrom left after 91 pitches, lowering his ERA to 1.93.

“I was a little tired, honestly,” deGrom said. “I don't really like to admit that, but I could definitely feel it.”

The Mets held a 2-0 lead when deGrom left the game, as Marlins starter Pablo López did his best to keep Miami in the game with 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball. The Marlins trimmed the lead with a run in the seventh, then after the Mets had pushed the spread back to two runs, Miami scored twice against Dellin Betances and Edwin Díaz in the eighth to tie it.

Michael Conforto picked his teammates up with a clutch two-run homer against Brandon Kintzler, giving Díaz a chance to close out the game. Three Marlins strikeouts later, the Mets were celebrating their first three-game winning streak of the season.

“That one definitely felt good, especially because I hadn't been hitting the ball out of the yard very much lately,” Conforto said. “With how great Jake was, and really how good the bullpen has been, it feels good to get that win tonight.”