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Collins: deGrom must 'fight through' struggles

Starter labors over five innings vs. Cubs

CHICAGO -- What struck Mets manager Terry Collins was not Jacob deGrom's obvious lack of fastball command at Wrigley Field, nor his inability to correct it until the middle innings of Monday's 4-3 loss to the Cubs.

Instead, what struck Collins were deGrom's reactions: hanging his head after Anthony Rizzo hit a homer in the first inning, kicking the ground with his toe after walking Jorge Soler.

"I saw that tonight for the first time," Collins said. "But you've also got to also understand, he really hasn't struggled like this before. So we've got to get him through it and we've got to get that confidence back, still trust in his stuff and make pitches with it."

In what is becoming a recurring theme early this season, deGrom was unable to do so against the Cubs. Hitting the first batter he faced with a pitch, the reigning National League Rookie of the Year gave up back-to-back homers to Kris Bryant and Rizzo, facing eight batters in the first inning en route to 85 pitches over his first four.

Though deGrom recovered to hold the Cubs to a single run after the first inning, even striking out the side in the fifth, the Mets could not muster enough offense to absolve him. And so deGrom fell to 3-4 on the season, his ERA climbing to 3.46.

"It was one of those days," deGrom said. "I had a hard time all night with every pitch. I wasn't really locating everything."

Those numbers seem more jarring when taken in context; since starting the year 2-1 with a 0.93 ERA, deGrom has gone 1-3 with a 5.64 mark. He has walked nine batters over that stretch, after issuing a total of three free passes in his first three starts.

"That's what made him so good last year was his location, moving it around side to side," Collins said. "We've got to get him back on track."

The Mets are taking solace in the fact that deGrom has demonstrated at least some ability to do so in the past. Last year, after endearing himself to New Yorkers with four consecutive quality starts to open his career, deGrom gave up 13 runs over his next 15 innings. Just when it looked as if he could be headed back to the Minors, he responded with a 1.99 ERA over his final 15 starts.

So the Mets do not plan to fret over this recent stretch just yet. DeGrom, for his part, said he plans to huddle with pitching coach Dan Warthen between starts, working on his fastball command in a bullpen session -- but otherwise not changing much.

"He's a good pitcher," Collins said. "He's going to have to fight through this stuff."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.
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