Evidently, those three extra days of rest didn’t help Jacob deGrom or the Mets. Also not helpful to the Mets was the image of deGrom heading up the tunnel to the clubhouse and motioning trainer Ray Ramirez to follow him.
Uh oh, what else could go wrong?
“That’s news to me,” manager Terry Collins said when asked about deGrom motioning to the trainer. “What you just informed me of is very troubling to me. … Jacob deGrom is a huge piece for us.”
How could the manager not know, unless, of course, deGrom wanted to talk to somebody else? Even so, television replays clearly showed Ramirez followed deGrom down the tunnel.
“Everything is fine,” insisted deGrom. “I just wanted to talk to Ray. I felt out of sync out there, but nothing is wrong.”
Collins pushed deGrom back three days when it was concluded fatigue was the factor for why he was torched for 13 runs on 25 hits in his previous two starts.
DeGrom – now 7-8 with a 3.04 ERA– appeared to overcome a strained lat muscle early this season, but red flags were raised with his previous two starts and his velocity dropping to 91 mph., in Thursday night’s 6-4 loss to the Miami Marlins.
However, it’s more than just fatigue or a drop of velocity. DeGrom still lives on the outer half of the plate and won’t challenge hitters inside. Could it be a lack of confidence in his fastball?
Collins initially planned to push deGrom back until Friday against Washington, but those plans changed when Steven Matz was sidelined with a rotator cuff impingement. So, deGrom moved up a day and gave up three runs on six hits and a season-high four walks in five innings.
It wasn’t a good line, and neither were the 102 pitches he threw in that span. High pitch counts have been a persistent problem all season for deGrom, Matz and Noah Syndergaard.
“His command is not what it has been,” Collins said. “We still have a lot of work to do.”
When a pitcher’s command leaves him, it is usually because of fatigue, injury or mechanics. DeGrom said it was the last option.
“It’s mechanics,” deGrom said. “I can’t throw the ball where I want to.”
The Mets began the season with a highly-regarded rotation of Matt Harvey, deGrom, Matz, Syndergaard and Bartolo Colon, who was to move to the rotation in July in favor of Zack Wheeler. That rotation was supposed to return the Mets to the World Series, but injuries cost them Harvey, Matz and Wheeler for the season; a bone spur in his elbow hampered Syndergaard; and deGrom was bothered by the strained lat muscle.
The Mets had won nine of their previous 11 games before tonight to climb back into the race. Returning to the playoffs is contingent on a lot of factors, with deGrom’s health now at the top of the list.
Regardless of what Collins said, things will be anxious for the Mets until deGrom pitches again.
Tonight’s other storylines were the return of Michael Conforto and the rise of another Met Killer.
CONFORTO RETURNS: Conforto was part of the Mets call-ups from Triple-A Las Vegas, where he hit .493 (33-for-67) with six homers and 13 RBI in 17 games.
Conforto reached base in his first three plate appearances on an opposite-field double, when he was plunked on the calf and when Christian Yelich dropped his fly ball in left center.
That he hit the ball hard to the opposite field on the error was a good sign.
You can add Yelich, who drove in four runs on three hits, including a homer. He also made a diving catch of a sinking line drive hit by deGrom with the bases loaded that could have saved three runs.
Yelich has hit four homers against the Mets this year, including three in this series.