When Bob Gibson’s masterful 1968 season — that 1.12 ERA was truly glorious — is a topic of conversation, one question always pops up: How in the world was he saddled with nine losses when he was that dominant?
It’s almost like the people asking that question have never watched the Mets on days that Jacob deGrom pitches. Sometimes individual dominance just isn’t enough.
Look, we are not here to make any sweeping generalizations about the 2021 Mets. It’s a new chapter in franchise history, with a new owner (Steve Cohen) and a new franchise icon signed to a lucrative, long-term deal (Francisco Lindor).
These are not the same old Mets and we are not going to use terms like “Mets’ing” in this column. We are, though, going to talk about a very familiar problem for the team from Queens, a problem that’s plagued the king of the Mets’ rotation for far too long.
The club’s ace, deGrom, was brilliant in the club’s delayed first game of the season; COVID issues with the Nationals meant the first series was not played as scheduled. deGrom threw six dominant shutout innings, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out seven Phillies. He threw 77 pitches, with 11 hitting 100.0 mph or higher. His fastest pitch of the night was a ridiculous 102.0, according to StatCast data.
The Mets led 2-0 when deGrom exited. They lost 5-3.
Jacob deGrom now has a 2.07 ERA since 2018 and the Mets are 36-41 in his starts.
— Mike Axisa (@mikeaxisa) April 6, 2021
That is really and truly an incredible statistic.
Manager Luis Rojas, after the game, citing that deGrom hadn’t thrown in 10 days, said he pulled his ace after a conversation following his sixth inning of work.
“Long season,” deGrom told reporters after the game. “Talking to them, it felt like the right decision.”
Here’s another truly mind-boggling set of numbers.
#Mets Jacob deGrom has made 77 starts over his last three seasons:
25 – 1.11 ERA
Games he did not win:
52 – 2.58 ERA (0-19)
— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) April 6, 2021
Rojas brought in Miguel Rojas for the seventh, and he delivered a scoreless inning. The eighth belonged to Trevor May, one of the centerpiece additions to the club’s bullpen this offseason. The veteran right-hander signed a two-year, $15.5 million free-agent deal after posting a 3.18 ERA with 12.0 strikeouts per nine innings in 89 relief appearances covering the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
May struck out the first batter he faced, but allowed two singles and a walk to load the bases. Rojas went to Aaron Loup, a veteran lefty who had a 2.52 ERA in 24 appearances for the Rays last season, before signing a one-year deal with the Mets this offseason.
Loup was brought in to face lefty Bryce Harper, and he promptly plunked Harper. One run in, bases still loaded. J.T. Realmuto followed with a single. Another run in, tie game, bases still loaded. Just like that the Mets’ two-run lead had completely disappeared. Another brilliant deGrom outing was wasted.
Oh, and it got worse. It always seems to get worse after deGrom exits a gem. Alec Bohm hit a chopper to third baseman Luis Guillorme, who came home with the throw in an attempt to get a force out. Guillorme’s throw was wild. Two more runs scored, and the Phillies led 4-2
Here’s another avert-your-eyes-Mets-fans stat.
It’s painfully ironic, isn’t it, that the throw that cost the Mets the game was thrown in the same direction as deGrom was throwing strikes all night?
Oh, and then Didi Gregorius delivered a sacrifice fly that plated another run and put the Mets ahead 5-2. The Mets scored once in the ninth but left two runners on base as the Phillies’ bullpen — rebuilt this offseason after being historically bad in 2020 — allowed just one run in 5 2/3 innings.
It’s just one game. It’s not an indictment on the future of a franchise.
But it was a frustratingly familiar feeling for deGrom and Mets fans.