That was the collective reaction from New York Mets fans and Jacob deGrom sympathizers everywhere last night after the Mets bullpen collapsed like Paul Pierce’s ESPN career in the eighth inning of their season opener. Off the strength of deGrom’s six shutout innings, in which he only threw 77 pitches, the Mets took a 2-0 lead into the eighth inning, where they allowed five runs.
I mean, damn, deGrom even had to help himself again.
Reliever Miguel Castro was able to navigate the seventh inning unscathed, only allowing one hit but preserving the Mets’ narrow lead. And then in the eighth, a trio of Mets free agent signings — James McCann, Aaron Loup, and Trevor May — all unraveled. With the bases loaded, Loup hit Bryce Harper on his right asscheek, allowing the first of what became five runs, aided by a McCann error at the plate that prolonged the slow death even further.
Following a J.T. Realmuto bases-loaded single to left field, which tied the game at 2, Alec Bohm chopped one to Mets third baseman Luis Guillorme, who returned a catchable throw to McCann at home because the bases were still loaded. Demonstrating limited flexibility behind the plate (in the first of a four-year contract at age 30 no less), McCann stretched for the ball, and the ball retreated to the backstop. To make matters worse, McCann busted his ass on a Rhys Hoskins slide to home, which was immediately followed by Harper scoring, and eventually, the Phillies led 5-2.
Thanks to the bats of Kevin Pillar, Francisco (not Frankie) Lindor, and Michael Conforto, the Mets did narrow the gap by one run in the ninth before a Pete Alonso near home run almost shifted the balance of power, but a catch by Harper at the wall ended the game. Despite the apparent untimeliness of his exit, deGrom — at least publicly — agreed with the decision of Mets manager Luis Rojas to yank him after six, citing a long season.
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“That was kinda discussed where we’re going to be before,” deGrom said. “Ten days without facing hitters, kept trying to throw bullpens but didn’t want to throw too many pitches with the hope of playing Saturday and then finding out that series is canceled, so that was the last time I was able to throw. So it was kind of a ‘how many ups’ thing, how many pitches not being in a game facing hitters for 10 days.”
“Going out for the six innings, and you guys saw the activity on the bases. And he hasn’t thrown in 10 days,” Rojas added. “So the conversations in between innings with him led us to make the decision of pulling him … I know he was way under than what he’s built up leaving camp. But maybe the 10 days without throwing led to the decision during the game. It was an agreement between everyone after we got to that spot in the sixth.”
deGrom’s had a 2.07 ERA going back to 2018, a 77-start stretch. In that time, the Mets have a 36-41 record, and deGrom himself is just 25-19 since with no more than 11 wins in a season in that stretch, despite having 32 starts each in 2018 and 2019.
The Mets’ bullpen issues don’t seem to be going away, and even when Seth Lugo eventually returns, they won’t magically go away unless everyone just plays better. And if that doesn’t happen, Felix and his father Julio are going to be pissed.