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Jacob deGrom Is Sharp for Mets in Return From Injury

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WASHINGTON — The excitement and clatter of baseball’s annual trading deadline drew many of the attention across the sport on Tuesday, and rightly so. Quite a few players modified teams in a matter of hours, including Juan Soto, the devastating slugger for the Washington Nationals, whom some consider one of the best position player in the sport.

The Nationals sent Soto and Josh Bell to the San Diego Padres for a number of prized prospects within the marquee trade of the day, and plenty of other lesser deals were recorded, too. The Mets made a number of trades of their very own, but only to enhance the team around the perimeters.

They did nothing spectacular, except welcome back a generational pitcher.

Jacob deGrom, the two-time winner of the National League Cy Young Award, returned to the mound on Tuesday night after greater than a yr lost to injuries, and he looked nearly as dominant as ever. He fired up the radar gun, fooled batters together with his off-speed pitches, and better of all, reported no pain, discomfort or worrisome ticks in any respect.

“To be on the market and be healthy and feel good, that definitely was step,” he said.

DeGrom, who had been out since spring training with a stress response injury in his right shoulder blade, threw five innings of overpowering baseball and allowed one run and three hits while striking out six with only the slightest hints of rust. It was his first outing since July 7, 2021, when a forearm injury cost him the second half of a season that had the potential to be his best so far.

Showcasing his signature fastball, and mixing it with crafty off-speed pitches, deGrom hit 100 miles per hour 13 times amongst his 59 pitches on Tuesday, including one which reached 101.6 m.p.h. against Victor Robles, Washington’s first batter of the sport.

The Nationals, with a depleted lineup, looked overmatched and bewildered. When deGrom struck out the veteran slugger Nelson Cruz with a 93 m.p.h. slider within the second inning, Cruz walked back to the bench shaking his head.

“Now the challenge is to maintain him on the market,” Buck Showalter, the Mets manager, said. “It’s hard to do. We’ll see where he’s in 4 days, hopefully.”

Demonstrating caution due to deGrom’s injury history, the Mets removed the 34-year-old after the fifth inning. The plan going into the sport was to maintain him to 70-75 pitches or five innings, whichever got here first, and his efficiency against an overmatched lineup determined it will be the innings limit.

The Nationals capitalized on deGrom’s departure with back-to-back home runs by Luis Garcia and Yadiel Hernandez off the relief pitcher Stephen Nogosek within the sixth. Washington then held on for a 5-1 win.

But that was the small-picture stuff. The more necessary development was that deGrom looked strong and almost unhittable — in other words, like himself — and fans and teammates can now envision a clearer picture of a tantalizing playoff pitching rotation for the first-place Mets, with deGrom and Max Scherzer at the pinnacle of it.

“That might potentially be really huge for us,” said Pete Alonso, the Mets first baseman. “I’m really excited to see what can occur down the stretch. I just hope they’ll each stay healthy for us and proceed to pitch the best way that they do.”

Although the Mets didn’t make a high-profile trade, they did add 4 recent players over the previous couple of days. They added depth to the lineup with designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach, outfielder Tyler Naquin and the versatile Darin Ruf. They usually bolstered their bullpen with Mychal Givens, a relief pitcher who was with the Baltimore Orioles from 2015-2018 when Showalter was their manager.

(Showalter said Givens was shifted from shortstop to pitcher when he was within the minor leagues, a path deGrom also took to the mound, years earlier.)

Not one of the players the Mets acquired are catchers and Givens is correct handed, so many Mets fans, who hoped for those two roster holes to be filled, could also be disillusioned. Billy Eppler, the Mets’ general manager, said he did pursue those sorts of players (hinting that Willson Contreras of the Chicago Cubs might need been one goal) but in the long run decided to not part with any of, “our top 19 prospects.”

Fans could take umbrage with that cautious approach, but just 24 minutes after Tuesday’s deadline passed at 6 p.m., those Mets supporters who made the trip to Nationals Park to see their team were soothed by the sight of deGrom walking purposefully to the bullpen for pregame warm-ups.

A number of dozen stood and cheered, but by the point deGrom strode to the mound for his first inning, there have been hundreds more Mets fans within the stadium and so they gave their pitching hero one other standing ovation.

“To be on the road and have Mets fans give me support like that was a extremely cool thing,” he said.

The day didn’t end in victory for deGrom. But Francisco Lindor homered in the highest of the sixth, evening the rating, 1-1, so deGrom was not charged with the loss, a fate that had been all too familiar for the slender right-hander over his years with the Mets, when marvelous performances were squandered by poor offensive support or faulty relief pitching. Over his past 4 seasons, deGrom’s earned run average was a remarkable 1.94, but his win-loss record was only 32-21.

The Mets hope that with a greater team behind him and with a more in-depth, Edwin Díaz, who has been terrific this yr, lots of those unlucky losses will turn into wins, especially within the postseason. After that come more unknowns. DeGrom said he was planning to opt out of his contract and grow to be a free agent after this season.

But for now, and the remaining of the yr, the Mets will probably be blissful to think about him as a fantastic addition, who happened to return back on trade deadline day.

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