Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The first time he pitched against the Yankees, Jacob deGrom was a sub, thrust into the 2014 Subway Series rotation because Dillon Gee got hurt. But deGrom surprised everyone -- including, let's be real, the Mets -- with a tremendous outing in his big-league debut, a bellwether of the brilliance to come.
And that kind of brilliance is exactly what the Mets need Friday night when deGrom takes the mound in the Subway Series once again. As one of baseball's best pitchers now, he'll never have another eye-opening stunner like his first one, and the Mets don't need a stopgap now -- they need a solution to their miserable funk.
Who better than deGrom to end a six-game losing streak and inject some relevance into a foundering season? The Mets (27-32) are 16-31 since their hot start. Some view this Subway Series as a tipping point for their entire campaign.
At least they'll take on their neighbors with their best. DeGrom, 4-0 with a National League-leading 1.49 ERA, has made great strides since the night of May 15, 2014, when the then-25-year-old held the Yankees to one run and four hits in seven innings.
At the time, David Wright called deGrom's debut, "spectacular." DeGrom even got his first big-league hit, a single in his first at-bat. He can probably recall the similar state of the Mets offense, then and now -- deGrom's hit was one of only three by the Mets the whole night.
DeGrom had been ticketed for the bullpen when he first came up, before Gee's injury. And many thought the better prospect had started against the Yankees the night before -- Rafael Montero.
A scout from another team who had watched deGrom at Triple-A Las Vegas a few weeks before his Major League debut remains amazed at his transition. "When I saw him in Las Vegas, he looked nowhere near where he is today," the scout says. "He showed 93-95 (miles per hour) in the first inning and then fell off to 90-93 the rest of the outing. He was OK, but nothing special like he is now.
"The Mets didn't even know the gem they had. He stepped it up to another level when he hit the big leagues. Give the kid credit."
The scout recalls being "quite surprised" when he saw the box score of deGrom's debut. "So were the Mets," the scout cracks. He's not surprised anymore. No one is. "He's evolved into a No. 1 starter," the scout says. "He was always a competitor."
The only run in deGrom's first start against the Yanks came on an RBI double by Alfonso Soriano in the seventh inning, which scored Brian McCann. DeGrom finished with six strikeouts while walking two, using only 91 pitches.
The debut was a springboard of sorts. DeGrom went on to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award, finishing 9-6 with a 2.69 ERA. On Sept. 15, he struck out the first eight Marlins of the game -- tying an MLB record. He was an All-Star the next year and was 3-1 with a 2.88 ERA in the postsason.
Four years ago, deGrom was a rotation quick fix. He bloomed into so much more and now, perhaps at the height of his powers, the Mets again need him on a night they face the Yankees.