NEW YORK -- As the runs piled up, Jacob deGrom figured he would find a way out of each jam. When Mitch Garver homered in the second inning Tuesday, deGrom thought he could limit the damage to maybe just that. One of baseball’s best at powering through struggles, deGrom believed
NEW YORK -- As the runs piled up, Jacob deGrom figured he would find a way out of each jam. When Mitch Garver homered in the second inning Tuesday, deGrom thought he could limit the damage to maybe just that. One of baseball’s best at powering through struggles, deGrom believed he could strand Jorge Polanco after a leadoff triple in the third. He supposed he could stanch the rally after Eddie Rosario homered.
Even after Garver went deep again, snapping deGrom’s record-tying run of 26 consecutive quality starts, deGrom figured he would recover. When Max Kepler drove home the sixth run off him with a single in the fourth inning, deGrom was still planning his escape.
That the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner never quite found his way in a 14-8 loss to the Twins was jarring for the Mets, who had not seen him allow more than three runs in a game since last April 10.
Not since last May 13, when he left a start early due to injury, had deGrom given the Mets anything less than a quality start. In the end, deGrom matched Bob Gibson for the longest such streak in Major League history, but fell short of surpassing him.
“He just didn’t have it today,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “He and Bob Gibson had it longer than anybody else ever in the history of the game, and tonight he just didn’t have it.”
For deGrom, that much was clear from the start. Uncharacteristically, deGrom ran the count to 3-2 on the first batter he faced, one of seven full counts he reached on the night. The Twins didn’t score in the first inning, but made several hard outs, and deGrom realized quickly that his slider -- typically a mid-90s demon of a pitch -- would not be “even a factor.” Quickly, deGrom ditched that pitch, but his command of the others was “all over the place.”
Garver’s homer to lead off the second inning snapped deGrom’s career-best scoreless streak at 27 innings, just 5 2/3 shy of R.A. Dickey’s franchise record. He lost his quality-start streak an inning later, when Polanco tripled then scored on a wild pitch, Willians Astudillo singled and Rosario hit a two-run homer. Garver followed with another homer to make it a 5-1 game, and Kepler added an RBI single in the fourth. All told, deGrom allowed six runs in four innings, raising his ERA to 3.18 -- its highest point at the end of any game since last April 16.
“We found out he’s human, finally,” Callaway said. “I didn’t think he was for a while.”
Why this night, of all nights? Perhaps it was the cold and the rain, which resulted in a 25-minute delay to start the game. Perhaps it was catcher Travis d’Arnaud who, after making his first start behind the plate in more than a year, said he felt partly responsible for deGrom’s performance. Perhaps, as Twins manager Rocco Baldelli suggested, “it was our guys ready to get on top of the ball … ready to hit strikes.”
Or perhaps it was simple inevitability: a human being offering a glimpse of imperfection.
“I’ve been through it before,” deGrom said. “And hopefully I’m around long enough to have a couple more. I know there are a lot of good pitchers that had games like this.”
Whatever the reason, it marked the first time since May 13, 2018, that deGrom failed to pitch at least six innings with three or fewer earned runs -- the definition of a quality start. Somewhere along that stretch, he established himself as baseball’s most dominant pitcher, winning a near-unanimous NL Cy Young Award and earning a $137.5 million contract extension. deGrom celebrated the deal with six shutout innings on Opening Day, then seven more the following week in Miami.
Tuesday, the Mets bashed four home runs in their attempt to back deGrom, including two from Pete Alonso -- the first player since 1900 to log 11 extra-base hits in his first 10 career games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. But it wasn’t enough on a night when nearly everyone in the bullpen struggled.
Instead, the Mets departed Citi Field pondering the unthinkable: how to flush a deGrom start as quickly as possible. They figure it shouldn’t be much of an issue.
Said Alonso: “His next outing, he’s going to shove it.”
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.