Mets waste Jacob deGrom’s triumphant return in loss to Nats

WASHINGTON — Jacob deGrom received a hero’s welcome from the large turnout of Mets fans at Nationals Park on Tuesday night.

He was applauded as he jogged to the bullpen for his warmups and heard similar cheers upon returning to the dugout and then taking the mound to throw his first pitch in a regular season game for the Mets in nearly 13 months. That pitch to Victor Robles registered 99 mph, signaling the two-time Cy Young award winner’s return.

Here’s what also made it seem like old times for the stud right-hander: The Mets’ bats weren’t there to support him.

The Mets’ seven-game winning streak concluded with a 5-1 loss to Washington only hours after the Nationals gutted their major league roster in a trade that sent Juan Soto and Josh Bell to San Diego.

DeGrom was removed after five innings and 59 pitches and took a no-decision. He allowed one earned run on three hits with six strikeouts, topping out at 102 mph. His previous appearance in the regular season for the Mets had come on July 7, 2021. This season, he was shut down during spring training with a stress reaction in his right scapula and didn’t resume throwing from a mound until June.

Mets ace Jacob deGrom delivers in the fourth inning against the Nationals at Nationals Park on Aug. 2, 2022 in Washington.
Mets ace Jacob deGrom delivers in the fourth inning against the Nationals.
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Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom reacts in the dugout during the fifth inning of a game against the Nationals at Nationals Park, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022, in Washington.
Jacob deGrom reacts in the dugout during the fifth inning of a game against the Nationals.
AP

“I definitely had some nerves early on,” deGrom said. “I wish for a different outcome, but I am happy to be back out there.”

He was asked when it hit him that he was back.

“Probably after that first inning,” deGrom said. “I wanted to get out there and that is kind of how it is whenever I am pitching normally. You are nervous leading up to it and once you get out there you kind of settle in. This one lasted a little longer.”

DeGrom said he didn’t lobby to continue deeper into the game.

“We knew it was either going to be 70-75 pitches or five innings,” deGrom said. “I kind of knew after that inning that was probably it.”

Francisco Lindor continued his sizzling play by launching a homer leading off the sixth inning against Victor Arano tying the score 1-1. On Monday, Lindor’s three-run homer against Steve Cishek had delivered the knockout in a Mets victory. Lindor entered play with a .998 OPS in his previous 20 games. He was hitting .337 over that stretch.

But the Mets couldn’t touch the Nationals’ bullpen for the remainder of the game, leaving seven runners on base and finishing 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position.

Stephen Nogosek was torched in the sixth inning, allowing consecutive homers to Luis Garcia (a two-run shot) and Yadiel Hernandez that placed the Mets in a 4-1 hole.

In the seventh, Yoan Lopez’s first pitch to Joey Meneses disappeared over the fence in right-center for a homer, extending the Nationals’ lead to 5-1.

With the loss, the Mets’ NL East lead on the Braves was reduced to 2 ½ games. The rivals will play a five-game series at Citi Field that begins Thursday, but first there is the matter of the Mets facing a Wednesday rubber game against the Nationals.

The Mets' Jeff McNeil reacts after striking out during the sixth inning of a game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022, in Washington.
Jeff McNeil reacts after striking out during the sixth inning.
AP

“It was good to see [deGrom] back out there, it’s been a long road for him,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Now we’ve got to stay on that road.”

DeGrom left a high fastball over the plate in the fourth inning that Garcia smacked into the right-center gap for an RBI double that gave the Nationals a 1-0 lead. Robles singled leading off the inning and stole second. After Garcia’s double, deGrom retired the next three batters in order.

The Nationals didn’t offer much resistance early. DeGrom struck out Robles and Garcia to begin his night, but Hernandez finally initiated contact and grounded out to end the inning.

“He was in control of his mechanics the entire evening,” pitching coach Jeremy Hefner said.

After Nelson Cruz struck out on a slider to begin the second inning, the Nationals got their first hit on Keibert Ruiz’s single to right. Ruiz, attempting to stretch the hit into a double, was nailed at second base on Starling Marte’s strong throw.

“[DeGrom] felt good physically, that was the big thing,” Showalter said. “He got five ups and had his pitch count down and a lot of good things. Other than the way the game turned out I would have taken that.”

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