An unlikely comeback to not only spare Jacob deGrom an undeserved loss but actually earn him the win last Saturday seemed as if it might be the early season spark the New York Mets needed.
But six days and a 1-4 record later, the Mets will look to their two-time National League Cy Young Award winner to act as stopper Friday night, when New York hosts the Washington Nationals in the opener of a three-game series between the NL East rivals.
The Mets absorbed the final loss in a three-game sweep at the hands of the host Chicago Cubs on Thursday night, when they fell 4-3 in 10 innings.
The Nationals last played Wednesday, when Max Scherzer tossed six scoreless innings and earned the victory as Washington edged the St. Louis Cardinals, 1-0, in the rubber game of a three-game series.
DeGrom (1-1, 0.45 ERA) is scheduled to oppose Erick Fedde (1-1, 5.56 ERA) in a battle of right-handers.
DeGrom actually managed to lower his ERA last Saturday, when he struck out 14 for the second straight start and whiffed nine straight Colorado Rockies batters -- one shy of Tom Seaver's record for most consecutive strikeouts -- before the Rockies scored three unearned runs in the fifth inning of the first game of a doubleheader.
But the Mets, who have gone 97-89 in deGrom's starts since 2014 despite his 2.57 ERA, scored once in the top of the sixth and twice in the seventh to put deGrom in line for the win. New York lost the nightcap 7-2 but took the series with a 2-1 win -- its fifth win in six games overall.
The momentum came to a halt in Chicago, where the Mets were outscored 23-8 in falling to 5-18 against the Cubs since 2018. New York failed to score despite loading the bases with one out in the ninth inning of a 3-1 loss Tuesday before squandering another bases-loaded, one-out opportunity in the 10th inning Thursday.
"It's a tough series here in Chicago -- we left Colorado feeling pretty good," Mets manager Luis Rojas said. "Just got to get home and regroup and come back and play good baseball again (Friday)."
The series win over the Cardinals continued a steady climb back from a rough start for the Nationals, who lost five of their first six games but have won six of 10 since. They split a four-game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks, sandwiched around series wins over St. Louis.
The Nationals lost Monday's opener in St. Louis 12-5 but mounted a two-run eighth-inning comeback in Wednesday's 3-2 win, Then Scherzer and a trio of relievers made batterymate Alex Avila's second-inning RBI double stand Wednesday.
"I'm not going to sit here and say I'm proud that we're 7-9," Scherzer said Wednesday. "For us, hey, we did some things right today, let's continue to do that. We've got a big series against the Mets."
deGrom, who allowed three hits and one walk over six innings last Saturday, is 8-4 with a 2.61 ERA in 20 career starts against the Nationals. Fedde, who earned the win last Saturday after giving up one run over five innings in Washington's 6-2 victory over the Diamondbacks, is 0-1 with a 5.19 ERA in eight games (three starts) against New York.
--Field Level Media