While casual baseball fans may not recognize the name, Jacob deGrom is quietly becoming a force to be reckoned with.
Looking to win a sixth consecutive start, deGrom and the visiting New York Mets try to take two of three against the NL East-leading Washington Nationals on Thursday.
DeGrom (6-5, 2.77 ERA) has posted a 1.04 ERA during his winning streak while striking out 37 and walking six over 34 2-3 innings. The right-hander is looking to become just the fourth Mets rookie to win six consecutive starts and the first since Jason Isringhausen won seven straight Aug. 20-Sept. 25, 1995. Dwight Gooden and Ron Darling also won seven in a row in 1984.
"I think we all have to start to understand this kid's got a little something special in him," manager Terry Collins told MLB's official website.
DeGrom, who owns the third-lowest ERA among rookies with at least 10 starts, was named NL rookie of the month for July. He took a no-hitter into the seventh Saturday against San Francisco and wound up yielding two runs over 7 1-3 innings in a 4-2 victory.
"I've had a little bit of success up here," he said. "I feel like if I go out there and pitch like I have been, that I can pitch here (in the majors)."
DeGrom now gets his first look at the Nationals (61-51), who have taken 11 of 13 in the series after winning 7-1 on Wednesday. Adam LaRoche and Danny Espinosa combined for three homers and drove in three runs apiece.
LaRoche has hit safely in eight straight against New York (54-60), going 12 for 29 with five homers, 11 RBIs and 12 runs scored.
Doug Fister pitched into the eighth inning as Washington climbed four games ahead of second-place Atlanta in the division. The Nationals visit the slumping Braves over the weekend before heading to Citi Field next week.
"There's no reason to see what anybody else is doing because we're trying to take care of our business," manager Matt Williams said. "If we win today, the position that we're in, there can't be any movement."
Washington gives the ball to Jordan Zimmermann (7-5, 3.00), who threw seven innings of five-hit ball while striking out eight and walking none in Saturday's 11-0 win over Philadelphia.
Zimmermann ranks third in the NL with 1.43 walks per nine innings, the lowest mark of his career. He's looking to win a third consecutive start against the Mets after allowing three runs over six innings in a 6-3 victory May 18.
New York had won five of seven on the road before coming up short Tuesday. The Mets went 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position, dropping to 2-4 this month.
All-Star second baseman Daniel Murphy collected two more hits, giving him 20 in 45 at-bats over the last 11 games. He's slugging .733 during that stretch with nine RBIs and nine runs.
Nobody in baseball has faced Zimmermann more than Murphy, who is 13 for 41 (.317) with three homers and four doubles in their matchups. Lucas Duda, meanwhile, is 4 for 21.
Nationals leadoff hitter Denard Span is batting .388 with 10 extra-base hits and 15 runs during a 17-game stretch in the series. He's batting .418 in his last 20 overall.