NEW YORK — The long hair and the protected path he took to the major leagues might both be of the 21st century variety for Jacob deGrom. But in every other way, he has turned into a throwback ace pitcher for the New York Mets.
DeGrom followed up a complete-game victory by earning the win with eight innings of three-hit ball Sunday, when he homered for the New York Mets’ first run in a 5-1 victory over the Washington Nationals at Citi Field.
The win allowed the Mets (31-37) to avoid being swept in the four-game series by the division-rival Nationals. Of the last nine wins deGrom has earned since last July, seven have come after a New York loss.
“Those kind of guys, they stop losing streaks,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “You lose three in a row, who shows up? Jake deGrom. And that means a lot, because when he’s out there, the offense kind of relaxes a little knowing, hey, look, we don’t have to score a ton. We just have to score a few runs and he’s going to hold them.”
On Sunday, all the Mets needed was one more run than deGrom produced himself. DeGrom, who played shortstop in college before converting to pitcher upon being drafted by the Mets in 2010, led off the third with a game-tying opposite-field homer to left.
“I was running pretty hard, so now, I didn’t know it was gone,” deGrom said with a grin. “But that’s where I seem to hit baseballs in batting practice, so I knew if I got it over there, it would have a chance.”
DeGrom, who allowed an unearned run in the first, was at his best after the homer. He retired 15 of the 17 batters he faced over his final five innings, a stretch in which he allowed just four balls to leave the infield and began to entertain thoughts of a second straight complete game.
DeGrom tossed a five-hitter for his second major-league complete game Monday night, when the Mets beat the Chicago Cubs, 5-1. On Sunday, he threw just 50 pitches between the fourth and seventh, including six pitches in the sixth, to reach the eighth at 94 pitches.
An 11-pitch eighth, during which pinch hitter Stephen Drew singled for the Nationals’ first hit since the third, ended any hopes of going the distance. DeGrom — who underwent Tommy John surgery shortly after being drafted and threw more than seven innings just twice in 58 minor league starts — was lifted after throwing 105 pitches, a call he didn’t argue with even though he said Monday he expects to pitch a complete game every time.
“I definitely would have liked to finish that game,” said deGrom, who walked two and struck out six. “But it was hot out there today and I definitely think that’s the right call.”
Addison Reed allowed one hit in the ninth in a non-save situation as the Mets pulled within 10 1/2 games of the National League East-leading Nationals (42-27).
“We knew (deGrom) was going to be tough going into today because they didn’t want to be swept at home,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. “You’ve got to put it on deGrom. He even helped himself out.”
The Mets took the lead in the fourth when Lucas Duda singled, went to second on T.J. Rivera’s single and scored when Matt Wieters dropped the throw home on Travis d’Arnaud’s single. Michael Conforto followed with an RBI single.
Conforto had another RBI single in the sixth for the Mets, who completed their scoring with a run-scoring single by Curtis Granderson in the seventh.
Rivera had four hits for the Mets.
The Nationals scored their run in the first, when Brian Goodwin reached on an error by Wilmer Flores, took second on a single by Bryce Harper, advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on Ryan Zimmerman‘s sacrifice fly.
Trea Turner tied a Nationals/Montreal Expos franchise record with four stolen bases. He is the first player to achieve the feat since the team relocated from Montreal in 2005.
Turner is tied for second in the National League with 25 stolen bases. He credits Nationals first base coach Davey Lopes, who stole 557 bases in his career, for his success on the basepaths.
“He gives you the confidence to run, but that’s something I’ve never really had,” Turner said.
Right-hander Joe Ross (3-3) took the loss after allowing four runs (two earned), nine hits and one walk while striking out four in six innings.
NOTES: The Nationals placed RHP Shawn Kelley (right trapezius strain) on the 10-day disabled list and recalled RHP A.J. Cole from Triple-A Syracuse. … SS Trea Turner is the first Nationals/Expos player to steal four bases in a game since OF Marquis Grissom did it on July 21, 1992. … Mets SS Asdrubal Cabrera, who is on the 10-day disabled list with a left thumb injury, fielded grounders before the game. … Mets manager Terry Collins said the team’s scheduled starter for Wednesday is still unknown. That is the turn usually taken by RHP Matt Harvey, who is on the disabled list with a right shoulder injury.