Ace. A term often used to describe a baseball team’s best starting pitcher. For the New York Mets in the last five years, Jacob deGrom has been exactly what an ace should be, and even more. From the moment he entered the league, deGrom has been a top pitcher in the league, winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2014, followed by consecutive National League Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.
September was not a friendly month to Mets ace Jacob deGrom
After a long, highly anticipated wait in 2022, Jacob deGrom finally returned to the mound in early August and it seemed as though things would be just the way they normally were. Number 48 on the mound every five days, dominating opposing hitters with ease. In his six starts during the month of August, the 34 year old pitched to a 1.98 earned run average, while striking out 55 batters and only walking three.
With the Mets in the midst of a pennant race as the calendar flipped to September, things have gone a little south for deGrom. He finishes the month with a 1-3 record and an ERA of 4.50 in five starts.
Most recently in his last two starts, the 4-time All-Star has been hit around more often than what we have seen in a long time. Before his start on September 24th in Oakland, deGrom had not allowed more than three runs in a start in three years. Before last night’s start in Atlanta, he had not allowed back to back home runs since 2019 either.
For most pitchers, allowing three runs over six innings is far from a "bad" start. But for Jacob deGrom's standards, most would classify it as sub par. That's how good he has been in the past. When breaking down his most recent start against the Braves, it is certainly hard to ignore the 11 strikeouts that deGrom had. He didn’t walk anybody while only surrendering five hits in six innings. So what went wrong? Well, the Braves did what they have been doing all season long: hit home runs. Solo home runs by Austin Riley and Matt Olson in the second and a Dansby Swanson solo home run in the 6th was all Atlanta needed to beat the Amazins in the series opener.
The Swanson homer that deGrom allowed in the 6th was a pretty good pitch. However, the two bombs given up in the 2nd inning came off pitches that missed their location. The first was a hanging slider to Riley that was supposed to be down and away, but instead stayed right over the middle of the plate. The next batter Olson got a fastball right down the middle, with the count 3-1, a pitch that the two time Cy Young winner is usually able to paint on the outside corner.
All the Mets can do right now is turn their attention to the two remaining games in this weekend’s series against Atlanta, a series that could very well determine who wins the National League East. As for Jacob deGrom, whatever the cause of these mistakes might be, he is running out of time to figure it out before the start of the postseason, a time when the Mets will need him more than ever.