During Sunday's series finale against the Nationals at Citi Field, Jacob deGrom did everything he could to get the Mets a win on a day that often felt like it might be the last relevant game of the season -- despite there being 95 left to go.
For starters, by getting a victory, he helped the Mets avoid being totally embarrassed by losing four games to the Nationals at home during a vital stretch of the season.
"You've gotta have that guy," manager Terry Collins said about deGrom late Sunday. "Those are the kind of guys that stop losing streaks. You lose three in a row, and who shows up? Jake deGrom. And that means a lot."
Equally important, his season is back on track. It was just two starts ago that he was devastated, dejected and needing to be consoled in the dugout in Texas, after having given up 15 earned runs in two starts. However, beginning last week against the Cubs and continuing against the Nationals, deGrom has allowed just two runs to score, while giving up only eight hits and throwing 17 innings.
"Baseball's a funny game," deGrom said, referring to his recent turnaround. "I felt good those starts (against the Brewers and Rangers), but I just gave up a bunch of runs. After those two, I was just trying to prepare for these next ones. That's all you can do."
To get corrected, deGrom told reporters he spent time reviewing video with pitching coach Dan Warthen, which has again refocused him on keeping his front shoulder closed during his delivery, while relying more on his changeup.
"He got away from who he is and how he's back," Collins simply added.
Jun 18, 2017; DeGrom (48), Travis d'Arnaud (18), and Dan Warthen (38) head to the dugout before the first inning against the Nationals at Citi Field. Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
He tossed just six pitches during the sixth inning, which was a major reason why he was able to throw eight full innings instead of being pulled an inning or two earlier. In fact, in that sixth inning, he did a terrific job moving the ball around and keeping the Nationals off balance, so -- even tough they were swinging -- their timing was off, they topped the ball or got under them and made quick, weak outs.
That said, for the most part, he tossed 10-20 pitches every inning, was crazy consistent, calm and in command the entire afternoon.
DeGrom's final pitch of the game, his 105th on the day, was a 98-mph fastball up in the zone that Bryce Harper swung and missed to end the eighth inning. It was Jake's hardest ball of the day, but was preceded by an 89 mph changeup that Harper was late swinging at as well, which -- in two pitches -- tells you everything you need to know about deGrom's awesome afternoon.
It's also worth noting that deGrom hit a home run Sunday, which was the first of his career and the team's first run on the afternoon.
"I think I got lucky," he later admitted. "That's where I seem to hit the balls in batting practice, so I knew if I got it over there I'd have a chance."
In 31 at-bats in 15 starts this season, deGrom is batting .290 with three extra base hits and three RBI. He has struck out during just 25 percent of his plate appearances.
The guy can hit, lead a pitching staff, make his team laugh and, despite the Mets sinking like a stone in the standings, he can still entertain fans and make us smile.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. He recently left his position as Executive Editor and Dir. of Digital Content for SNY.TV to help sports brands build their own digital content businesses...