The 8-1 victory in the opening game against the Pirates was a feel-good, low stress-type of win the Mets had been sorely lacking the first two months of the season. After the lamentable series against the Padres, Jacob deGrom was a gleaming oasis on the mound after all of the gloom.
deGrom did not get the start in the finale against San Diego because there was a threat of rain. Rafael Montero got the start instead, and the striking difference between the two pitchers was evident right from the start when deGrom took to the mound against Pittsburgh. Montero had a marathon of a first inning against the Padres where he threw over 40 pitches and left the mound trailing 2-0.
deGrom’s first inning was not spotless either since he allowed an improbable single to Josh Harrison and a walk to Josh Bell. Unlike Montero he pitched out of it and for the rest of the game he relied on his pinpoint control, something that has bedeviled Montero throughout his major league career.
For the most part the Pittsburgh lineup was no match for deGrom. David Freese was a strikeout victim four times on the night and looked completely overmatched in every at-bat. deGrom’s only blemish came off the bat of Gregory Polanco who hit a solo shot to lead off the fourth inning. deGrom buckled down even further after that and struck out the next two batters. By the time his night was over, the wiry righty had ten strikeouts and was the first Met pitcher to record an out in the eighth inning this season. After a quick eighth deGrom was sent back out for the ninth but was taken out with one out and a runner on first. He had done his job and given the bullpen the night off while looking like the ace from 2015.
Just as deGrom was rolling, so was the offense. Curtis Granderson put the Mets on the board in the second when he singled off starter Chad Kuhl to drive in Lucas Duda. Neil Walker had a regrettable series when he first returned to Pittsburgh last season, but there would be no repeat performance this season. He extended the lead in the third with a two-run home run, and blasted another solo shot in the fifth. He also got a gift RBI single an inning later when Jordy Mercer misplayed a shallow fly ball giving him four RBIs for the night.
Last season the Pirates could make a case they had one of the best outfields in the game. Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, and Gregory Polanco looked like a quality trio to have roaming the outfield. Now with suspensions, injuries, and underperformance, that outfield is a shell of itself. Marte was suspended 60 games and replaced by Adam Frazier, McCutchen was dropped to sixth in the lineup for the first time in his career, and Polanco just returned from injury. What should have been a strength was a clear liability in this game. They looked awkward chasing after balls hit into the outfield, and Polanco lost a ball off of Lucas Duda’s bat that turned into a two-run double. That put the Mets up 8-1 and the game out of reach.
The pitching and the offense came together for one night and offered a glimpse of what could be when everyone is firing on all cylinders. If the Mets hope to salvage their season they will need to repeat this performance as often as they can, or at least until the reinforcements arrive.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Neil Walker +25.6%, Jacob deGrom 16.0%
Big losers: None
Teh aw3s0mest play: Neil Walker home run in third.
Teh sux0rest play: Gregory Polanco home run in fourth.
Total pitcher WPA: +16.1%
Total batter WPA: +33.9%
GWRBI!: Lucas Duda