Jacob deGrom’s Injury Overshadows Mets Victory
A big blow from Michael Conforto on Sunday saved the Mets from a completely disastrous weekend in Pittsburgh. Conforto, an outfielder who had the worst season of his career, landed a two-run homer in the ninth inning to put the Mets past the Pirates, 7-6.
It was fine, sure, but it was something like a cheap farewell gift at the end of the sullest party of the year. Ahead of Sunday’s win, there were four losses – two games and two superstars – which infused a fun season with a sudden sense of dread.
The Mets had three hits on Friday and lost. Ahead of Saturday’s game, shortstop Francisco Lindor was put on the injured list with a grade 2 right oblique strain that will keep him from playing for weeks. That night, Edwin Diaz gave up a late-game grand slam with two strikeouts in the ninth.
This was all bad enough – and then came the news Sunday morning that the tightness in Jacob deGrom’s right forearm, on his throwing arm, would send him to the casualty list. The Mets played shorthanded on Sunday and announced after the game that Jerad Eickhoff would start in Cincinnati on Monday. They still haven’t named a starter for Tuesday’s game.
“We’re going to continue to expect to win,” said Conforto, whose home circuit capped a comeback after a six-point deficit in the first inning. “It’s just the culture we’ve built. Obviously we have to face some adversity, but so far it feels like we have thrived on that adversity. It will only bring us closer together.
At 48-42, the Mets lead the National League East by two games against the Philadelphia Phillies (47-45), who won 10 of their 14 games in July. The Phillies aren’t exactly a juggernaut, but it’s safe to say they’re in hiding, if only because they’re the healthiest team in the division.
Lindor was just 0.228 on 11 home runs, but his record suggested an imminent increase in the second half which is now on hold. Even when he’s not hitting well, said Conforto, Lindor is helping.
“He’s just a natural leader,” Conforto said. “No matter how he plays, he’s present, so hopefully we have him with us until he goes to rehab.”
And then there’s deGrom, whose sublime season has been peppered with minor injuries. Here is the updated count:
Inflammation of the right latissimus dorsi, May 4 (missed start)
Right side tightening, May 9 (left early start, placed on the injured list)
Right elbow flexor tendonitis, June 11 (early onset on the left)
Shoulder pain, June 16 (left start early)
Tearing of the right forearm, July 18 (placed on the wounded list)
While his previous arm injuries resulted from beatings, deGrom said, this was not the case. He didn’t feel fresh in his bullpen session last Sunday, he said, then felt some irritation in Pittsburgh on Friday.
“We have images of the elbow and the forearm, and it’s in the forearm,” deGrom said. “So when I go to take out the baseball, I have a hard time staying there and throwing the ball like I’m supposed to. The other day I felt it literally throwing a baseball, and then it never really looked better. It just continued to stay tight even when I stepped on a mound.
He added: “I guess the good thing is that structurally my elbow looks good. But the frustrating part is, what is it? What did I do to provoke it? “
When the toughest starting pitcher in baseball feels pain while lobbing a ball, he’s clearly alarming. DeGrom has been overkill in his 15 starts. His 146 strikeouts in just 92 innings are second in the National League, behind Philadelphia’s Zack Wheeler 152 in 19 starts. DeGrom leads the majors in earned runs average at 1.08. He’s allowing 3.9 hits and 1.1 walks every nine innings, the two lowest in the major leagues.
Double that up and you would have one of the greatest individual seasons in major league history. But sustainability doesn’t come with that kind of dominance. DeGrom is a starter who throws like a closer, with a fastball that averages 99.2 miles per hour. No other starter averages 98 mph
In 2015, when he helped the Mets reach the World Series, deGrom averaged 95.7 mph with his fastball. He is now 33 and maybe his body can’t take all of the heat. Mets coaching staff, manager Luis Rojas said, are keenly aware of the physical toll.
“They know his routine from the book, so they have a really good idea of where Jake is,” Rojas said. “I mean, we all know he’s a different Jake than he was five years ago, six years ago, right?” Jake throws harder and he’s older. He might start to feel different things.
“These guys are still working on everything he’s dealt with this year, and they’re unrelated. So, for now, the main focus is on isolating this one, as it has nothing to do with anything else that has happened before in the season, even if it does. acts of five different things. These guys are just going to be careful, watch Jake, because they know the strength he creates when he throws.
That strength and the dominance it produces is enough to give the Mets hope for a deep run in October. But first they have to get there, then deGrom has to be the best version of himself – and the deGrom spike, it seems, can be just overwhelming.
“My level of frustration right now is very high,” he said, and every Mets fan would nod their head in assent.
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