NEW YORK -- The baseball popped into the air, carrying with it the Mets' chance at a much-needed gem from Jacob deGrom. It had been nearly three full weeks since a Mets starting pitcher recorded an out in the seventh inning. Cruising into that pivotal frame with a pitch count
NEW YORK -- The baseball popped into the air, carrying with it the Mets' chance at a much-needed gem from Jacob deGrom. It had been nearly three full weeks since a Mets starting pitcher recorded an out in the seventh inning. Cruising into that pivotal frame with a pitch count of 84, deGrom seemed primed to snap that streak.
Then a callus on his finger began bothering him. He loaded the bases on a hit, a walk and a hit batter. After a strikeout, deGrom then induced a popup to Jose Reyes, thinking to himself, "Please somebody get there," as the Mets' shortstop chased after the ball. Reyes bobbled then caught it as 36,542 fans exhaled, their Mets en route to a 3-0 win over the Angels.
"That was huge for Jacob," Reyes said.
More than anything, the Mets entered Friday's play needing length from deGrom, who had pitched beyond the sixth just twice in his first eight starts. Mets starters had not recorded an out in the seventh in 17 consecutive games, taxing their bullpen and contributing heavily to the team's seven-game losing streak.
If anyone could snap the funk, manager Terry Collins reasoned, it was deGrom -- the Mets' de facto ace despite his 4.07 ERA heading into the night. And deGrom played the part early, retiring 13 straight Angels with seven strikeouts during one middle-innings juncture.
"I wanted to stay out there as long as possible tonight," he said.
When deGrom walked out to the mound for the seventh, his pitch count was low enough that he thought he could not only record an out in the seventh, but maybe one in the eighth as well. Yet as deGrom began the inning, a callus on his right ring finger began bothering him. Although Collins and trainer Ray Ramirez jogged out to the mound to check on him after Andrelton Simmons' leadoff double, deGrom had already ripped the dead skin off by the time they got there, convincing his bosses to let him stay in the game without much argument.
Initially, it seemed as if the decision might haunt the Mets. deGrom walked the next hitter and hit a batter to load the bases. Still, Collins stuck with his starter, trusting deGrom to display the type of vintage form he has only infrequently showed this season.
Two batters later, pinch-hitter Ben Revere lifted a soft liner up the middle, where Reyes lofted it back into the air with his glove, catching it on the rebound.
"I just tried to run as fast as I could," said Reyes, who reached a top speed of 22.3 mph on the play, per Statcast™. "When the ball hit my glove, I said, 'Oh man, I'm going to catch this ball.' And then the second time, I got it."
The final line was classic deGrom: seven innings, four hits and nine strikeouts. Afterward, Michael Trout called him "one of the best pitchers in the league." The Mets simply called him the antidote to their woes.
"That's certainly exactly what we thought we were going to be able to do is get our starting pitchers to really carry us," Collins said. "Jake did a tremendous job tonight -- unbelievable what he did in the seventh inning. That's what we've come to expect from those guys."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.