Tonight marks Jacob deGrom’s fourth career start against the Cubs, who have managed to hit him pretty hard each of their first three meetings.
In deGrom’s fifth career start (June 5, 2014), he took a no decision against the Cubs, a five-inning affair that saw him give up a home run to the opposing pitcher (Travis Wood), walk three, and give up four earned runs. That lineup was noticeably different than the one that the Cubs will be running out tonight, and not in a way that is beneficial to deGrom; only Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo are still starters for this year's squad.
This year, deGrom faced the Cubs during both series the teams played. The first time out (May 11), deGrom again only lasted five innings at Wrigley, and did not have his best stuff, giving up homers to Kris Bryant and Rizzo, as well as walking four and hitting one. Three of his four earned runs came from the home runs, so he was able to battle through the rest of the game, only giving up an RBI single in the fourth to Addison Russell. There was some grumbling during the game of the umpire having an inconsistent strike zone, which may have accounted for some of deGrom’s perceived wildness, but the results certainly weren’t great, consistent strike zone or not.
deGrom’s final start against the Cubs came on July 2 and, though certainly his best start against the Cubs, he still struggled. deGrom gave up three earned runs while walking two and striking out only two. This was at the peak of the lethargic, offensively challenged Mets, and was one of those games that seemed out of reach almost instantly, especially after Jonathan Herrera’s sixth-inning home run.
The Cubs that deGrom will be facing tonight are better than the Cubs he’s faced before (especially as Kyle Schwarber didn’t join the major league squad until a few weeks after their last meeting), but deGrom has continued to prove that he is never really out of a game, even without his best stuff. Plus, this is an incredibly small sample size to base any conclusions on, and it shouldn’t change the Mets’ approach at all. The fact remains, these Cubs can hit, and the Mets have kept them relatively hitless this series. deGrom certainly has the ability to continue that trend.