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Jacob deGrom's Stellar Performances Continue to Get Lost in a Tired Theme

Jacob deGrom’s run support holds a special place in the library of annoying modern baseball discourse.

It’s annoying partially because it is reductive—yes, it is true that he does not often receive significant run support, but “often” is not “always, forever, indubitably.” (The narrative of a guaranteed vanishing offense has gotten especially banged up this season: Before deGrom’s start on Monday, the Mets were 8–2 behind him in 2020.) It’s annoying because it is hacky—not just an easy joke but a weak one. If it’s fair to note that the Mets’ organizational spirit frequently feels less like that of a baseball team and more like some exercise in absurdist humor, it’s also fair to demand that the jokes meet a higher standard, focused on the real material. (Or did you miss the mysteriously dark smoke wafting over the stadium on Sunday?) And the deGrom-run-support conversation is annoying most of all because it is boring. There’s so much else to say about deGrom. He pitches in a way that should inspire poetry or quasi-religious devotion or, possibly, back-to-back-to-back Cy Young Awards. If your primary takeaway after one of his starts is how few runs he did or did not have to work with—you likely missed a hell of a pitching performance.

deGrom had an early exit last Wednesday, a rare bad outing ended prematurely by a hamstring spasm, which sparked concerns about how he might fare for the rest of the season. But he returned on Monday against the Rays, and in his first inning, he looked like this:

That was three strikeouts: two swinging, one looking, all exercises in minor humiliation for the batter. (And two of them required just three pitches—deGrom missed the opportunity for an immaculate inning by just one pitch.) It set the tone for the evening. He continued to embarrass the Rays, allowing just four hits, and racking up strikeouts. When he was pulled after the seventh inning, deGrom had 14 Ks—tied for the most by any pitcher in baseball this season, and, more impressively, tied with himself. (He had 14 strikeouts for the first time this season back on Aug. 26; it makes him the first Mets pitcher to have so many strikeouts in multiple games in one year since Dwight Gooden in 1985.)

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All this just continued the theme of his work so far this year. He’s struck out more than a third of the batters he’s faced this season—a personal best. His 2.14 ERA has him under 2.50 for the third consecutive season. Per Statcast, his xBA, or expected batting average, is under .200 for the first time in his career. He’s been relying more on his slider, which, not coincidentally, has looked better than ever. His performance on Monday captured all of that.

On Monday, the Rays beat the Mets, 2-1, all but officially eliminating them from a playoff spot. deGrom was credited with the loss.

Quick Hits

• We have a winner: The A’s became the first team to clinch a division title this season. While they had the day off on Monday, Seattle beat Houston, which was enough to ensure that Oakland would hold onto the first place in the AL West.

• The Reds and Brewers opened a series that should play a huge role in determining the eighth seed in the National League. Entering Monday, Milwaukee’s playoff odds sat at slightly better than a coin flip (57.7%) and Cincinnati’s sat at almost exactly a coin flip (51.3%), but the next few days should swing both of those significantly. First up? A boost for the Reds, who beat the Brewers, 6–3, on the strength of a solid pitching performance from Luis Castillo and a three-run eighth-inning homer from Mike Moustakas.

• Your new favorite rookie is 21-year-old Blue Jays catcher Alejandro Kirk, who went 4-for-4 with a home run against the Yankees: