BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Let’s be clear here about Friday night. No one on the Mets came up big. Not the hitters. Not Mets manager Buck Showalter. Not anyone in relief. They came out flat against the Atlanta Braves in what was the first game of an important series that could dictate who plays in the playoffs next week or get a bye.
But if you want to say who came out small of all Mets, it was Jacob deGrom. In a game the Mets ace had an opportunity to show he deserves to be paid like the highest-paid pitcher in baseball when he opts out, he made a case that he is better off pitching elsewhere where there is no pressure to win next season. A team like the Texas Rangers would be so good for him.
No, he did not pitch like Mets starter Tom Glavine against the then-Florida Marlins in Game 163 of the 2007 season. No one can be any worse than that. Nevertheless, he wasn’t exactly the solution, either. He gave up three home runs in the Mets’ 5-2 loss to the Braves at Truist Park.
The offense did not help his cause, as Max Fried retired 10 batters in a row before he left the game in the fifth inning after he threw up. The Mets did not get a big hit when they needed it. In the ninth inning, after Tyler Naquin made Braves closer Kenley Jensen throw nine pitches, he struck out with the bases loaded to end the game.
Showalter should be questioned for using Tylor MeGill, who imploded in the seventh inning by giving up two runs and three hits in ⅔ innings that put the game away for good. Adam Ottavino was the only guy for that spot.
But in the end, it comes down to deGrom. He should have given seven great innings at the bare minimum tonight. There was a reason Showalter moved him up to pitch the first game of the series. He felt his starter gave the Mets the best chance to win. Instead, he didn’t.
Then, we have to hear he has been pitching through a blister after the game. Just stop. Pitchers are always going through some sort of pain after they throw. The truth of the matter is that deGrom came up small. That’s all there is to it.
The Mets were favored to win the series since they had their best starters out there this weekend. After deGrom failed to come through, it will be up to Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt to show him how it’s done.
After the Amazins took a 1-0 lead on Luis Guillorme’s RBI single in the second inning, deGrom gave up back-to-back home runs to Austin Riley and Matt Olson to give the Braves a 2-1 lead in that inning. This is not what an ace should be doing. He needs to ramp up his game with a lead like this. This is what makes great pitchers stand out. Instead, he could not locate his pitches, and at times, he struggled to get his slider working. He settled down after he gave up the home runs, and he finished his night by retiring six in a row.
The boxscore says deGrom gave up three runs on five hits in six innings while striking out 11. You can say it’s good, but it’s not good enough. Not in a series of this magnitude with everything on the line such as winning the NL East and getting a bye in the playoffs. deGrom was entrusted to set the tone to open up this big series, and he didn’t get it done. Giving up three solo home runs (Dansby Swanson homered in the sixth inning) does not make a good start, and it’s a bad look on him that he left after six innings rather than suck it up for one more inning.
In his last four starts, deGrom gave up 14 earned runs in 21 innings, and it resulted in three losses. This should be a concern with the postseason coming up. If this is the best he can do, it will be a short postseason for the Metropolitans.
It could be that deGrom may still be recovering from his shoulder injury, so he may be tired, but no one wants to hear it now. This is not the time for any excuses. It’s either produce or not. Right now, he is not getting it done.
When deGrom gave up back-to-back home runs in the second inning, it sure looked like it took the life out of the Mets altogether. Starting pitchers need to give their team a chance to win. On this night, deGrom really didn’t despite how he finished the game.
You can chalk his struggles against Oakland as him not getting up for the opponent. There’s no excuse for Friday night. It’s alarming he can’t even go deep in games anymore. Is this what the Mets should pay up for when he is a free agent?
Right now, the Mets simply can’t trust him to be the opener of a playoff start. It should go to Max Scherzer. He’s the best pitcher on the staff. You can even make a case that Chris Bassitt should be the No. 2 starter over deGrom.
For the Mets to win the World Series, they need deGrom to be what he was when he dominated after coming off the injured list, not what we have seen lately. The question now is how much he has left.
It’s something the Mets don’t really want to wonder but a start like Friday night should raise the possibility.
This writer can be reached on Twitter at: @LeslieMonteiro6