Jacob deGrom Got a Chuckle out of Being Checked for Sticky Stuff

In Tuesday’s Hot Clicks: how the best pitcher in baseball reacted to his first foreign substance check, Denmark’s gutty performance on the field where Christian Eriksen almost died and more.
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Sorry, hitters. He’s not cheating. 

An inspection by the umpiring crew and a wry smile from the best pitcher in baseball during Monday’s Braves-Mets game confirmed MLB hitters’ worst nightmare: Jacob deGrom isn’t using anything illegal—he’s just that good.

Monday was the first day that umpires were instructed to enforce baseball’s rule against the use of foreign substances by pitchers. Starters will be inspected for “sticky stuff” more than once per game and relievers will be checked either at the end of an inning or when they’re removed from the game.

The Braves and Mets played MLB’s first game of the day, so, after the first inning, when deGrom walked off the field after retiring the side (that’s 34 straight first-inning outs for him), he became the first pitcher to be checked for illegal gunk this year. deGrom wasn’t worried about it, though. As the umps checked him out, he just smiled.

“What all do you guys need?” deGrom recalled asking the umps.

“Glove, hat and belt,” they told him, and he complied.

“I handed them that stuff and went along my way,” deGrom said.

Earlier this month, as the sticky stuff scandal exploded, a Dodgers fan posted a video on Twitter of deGrom's touching the inside of his glove on the mound and accused the Mets ace of cheating. deGrom’s teammates rushed to his defense and were unanimous that deGrom is clean.

deGrom’s fastball spin rate has increased in recent years (from 2,261 in 2015 to 2,423 this year), but that can be chalked up to his increased velocity. Somehow, at age 33, his average fastball velocity has risen from 94.2 mph as a 26-year-old rookie to 99.2 this year.

deGrom has been so dominant this year that it’s been difficult to comprehend. It would almost make sense if he went out Monday, suddenly stripped of the ability to load up pitches with military-grade adhesive and got roughed up. But no, apparently he’s on the level, and he was just as unstoppable as he has been all year. He allowed one hit and no runs over five innings of work, with six strikeouts and two walks. He has started 12 games this season and has not allowed more than one run in any of them. (Monday’s start broke deGrom’s tie with Bob Gibson for the most consecutive starts allowing one or zero earned runs.) He’s gone 30 innings without allowing a run. His ERA is 0.50. His WHIP is 0.514. His ERA+ (where 100 is league-average) is 777. In a season when every pitching achievement is clouded by suspicion, it will be a blast to watch deGrom mow down hitters for the rest of the summer. 

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