The struggling Mets got yet one more dose of optimism on Sunday when Jacob deGrom, the team’s co-ace who has been sidelined all season, struck out five of the six batters he faced in a rehab start for Class A St. Lucie.
Eighteen of deGrom’s 24 pitches went for strikes, together with his fastball topping 100 miles an hour. He hit the one batter he didn’t strike out.
Mix that progress with Max Scherzer’s expected return from the injured list this week and the Mets’ pitching staff may finally turn out to be what General Manager Billy Eppler envisioned this off-season. The team will need all the assistance it may well get given how poorly its offense has been performing in recent weeks.
“I felt like I had control of every little thing,” deGrom told reporters after Sunday’s start. “The predominant thing was attempting to locate the fastball and pitch off that. Every thing felt good.”
Of much more importance than deGrom’s ends in his six-batter appearance, he said, was that his shoulder, which has sidelined him since spring training due to a stress response in his scapula, was not limiting him.
“It feels 100%,” he said. “Since it was bone — you’ll be able to’t really push it. I had to attend until the bone was healed and move forward from there.”
Despite the strong outing, and the dearth of pain, deGrom is anticipated to wish several minor league starts before he returns to the majors.
The Mets got off to a terrific start this season, and even with a severe downturn on offense they’ve held on to their lead over the Atlanta Braves within the National League East. That’s despite Scherzer’s having only began eight games and with deGrom not having began a serious league game since July 7 of last season.
Critical to that first half have been strong seasons from Taijuan Walker (6-2, 2.72 E.R.A.) and David Peterson (5-1, 3.24), who’ve helped offset the injuries to not only deGrom and Scherzer but additionally one affecting Tylor Megill, a right-hander who had some promising results earlier this season before landing on the injured list with a strained shoulder. Chris Bassitt, a 2021 All-Star with Oakland who was acquired in a spring training trade, was placed on the injured list on July 1, but the dearth of injury designation suggested that his could also be a coronavirus-related absence reasonably than anything flawed together with his pitching arm.
Even Scherzer and deGrom might need more help than the Mets’ hitters have been providing in the previous few weeks. After winning two of three at home in a weekend series against the Texas Rangers, the Mets are still twenty ninth within the majors in on-base plus slugging percentage (.639) during the last 15 days, with only the Oakland Athletics below them. Pete Alonso has continued to perform, but nearly every other Mets hitter has taken a severe downturn, no yet one more so than Mark Canha, a veteran outfielder acquired this off-season, who’s 3 for his last 34.
If the Mets hope to carry off Atlanta, which because it did last season is surging after a troublesome start, pitching health and a return to form for the team’s hitters can be crucial.