Jacob deGrom had that Cy Young look again Monday night.
The look that he would not be defeated. Wins have been so tough to come by for deGrom the past two years, with only 10 last season despite a 1.70 ERA. His masterpiece against the Diamondbacks moved his record to 9-8 as the Mets came away with the easy 3-1 victory at Citi Field.
This was one of those wins the Mets had to have and deGrom turned into a strikeout machine as the Diamondbacks continued to swing through his changeup.
“Just sheer determination,’’ Mickey Callaway said of deGrom’s will. “When I see him competing and you see it every start. And you see it every pitch. It never wavers and that’s what it takes. Even if they make a bad call, we make an error behind him, no matter what the situation is there is this look in his eyes that he is going to beat you.’’
DeGrom totaled 11 strikeouts. That marks the 41st time in his career he has hit double figures in strikeouts.
He got all the offense he needed from Pete Alonso, who bashed two home runs and has Aaron Judge in his sights. Alonso owns 47 home runs, trailing Judge’s rookie mark of 52 set in 2017 by five with plenty of home run heaven ballparks in his near future with 19 games to go.
The night, though, belonged to deGrom, who did serve up a solo home run to Wilmer Flores to lead off the fifth, a nice moment for the popular Flores in his return to Citi Field, although deGrom hated it.
“The main goal is to get to the playoffs and hopefully win a World Series,’’ deGrom said of the opportunity to win a second straight Cy Young.
“Last year it was mine to kind of lose. I was thinking about it a lot more. Having won one, it’s still the goal but with the bigger picture this team trying to go to playoffs and get into the World Series.’’
DeGrom is the Mets rock.
The moment “Simple Man’’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd is played as he comes to the mound to warm up in the first inning, there is a sense of calm and determination. This was a game the Mets had to win to stay on the fringe of the second wild-card race.
After two straight losses to the Phillies, they needed to bounce back in the first of four games against the Diamondbacks.
DeGrom struck out Ketel Marte, a fringe MVP candidate, three times as he dominated the first four hitters in the Diamondbacks lineup.
The win moved the Mets to 73-70 with 19 games to go. They had lost three of the last five, including that bizarre 11-10 loss to the Nationals last time out for deGrom when the bullpen gave up a six-run lead in the ninth inning.
That is another reason deGrom had that winning look the moment he took the mound. Over his 168 career starts he has allowed one or no runs 77 times, the best mark since 1908 in a pitcher’s first 168 games.
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DeGrom went seven innings, allowing only three hits and the Flores home run. He walked one and struck out those 11 with 108 pitches. DeGrom leads the National League with 231 strikeouts. He is Mr. Consistent, having surrendered three runs or fewer in 18 of his last 20 starts as he makes a late push for his second straight Cy Young Award.
He came into the night with a 1.91 ERA in the second half and now owns a 2.70 ERA for the season, down from 2.76. He is getting into rarified ERA air again and gives the Mets the ace in the hole down the stretch.
If the Mets are going to squeeze into the second wild-card spot they are going to have to win all of deGrom’s remaining starts and much more.
“We just have to play good baseball,’’ deGrom said. “Just have to win. There’s still quite a bit of games left and quite a bit can happen.’’
There can be no slippage.
Do all that and deGrom just may win his second straight Cy Young Award, too. It’s simple, man.