PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Jacob deGrom has yet to watch the start that lingered with him all winter. Maybe he never will. When the Mets righthander reviews films of his games, he typically finds more value in poring over the good ones, not the bad.
But the memory of his Game 2 loss in the World Series still occupies a space beneath his trademark flowing flocks.
“At times, it’s popped into my mind,” deGrom said on Tuesday, after throwing off the mound at the team’s complex here. “I want to get back there and get a chance to redeem myself.”
Until the final out of the World Series, deGrom held out hope for one more start, one more opportunity to wash away the bitterness of Game 2. That night, the Royals tagged deGrom for four runs in the fifth inning. By the time he departed, he had managed just three swings and misses, far from the dominance he showed all season.
“The thing is to try not to dwell on it too much,” deGrom said. “I think the reason that’s so fresh in my mind is because it was my last start, and it was probably the biggest game of my life, so I definitely think about it a little bit. But once this season starts, that will be out of my mind and it’s on to our new goal.”
That goal is clear.
As the Mets have slowly trickled into their spring-training complex, they have struck a familiar refrain about expectations. There will be no sneaking up on the National League, not this year.
The reason for that confidence was just as easy to spot. For the third time since arriving in Florida, deGrom threw off the pitcher’s mound. Matt Harvey and Steven Matz threw off the mound as well.
Noah Syndergaard will arrive soon. And in July, Zack Wheeler is expected to return from Tommy John surgery to complete the Mets’ full house of flamethrowers.
“I definitely think there’s a little more expectation,” deGrom said. “And I think we expect to make it back to the World Series and win it this time. That’s everybody’s goal here. Last year we said it was the same thing. I think now more people outside of the locker room expect it.”
DeGrom, 27, will play a major role in whether those expectations are met. In 30 regular-season starts, the righthander went 14-8 with a 2.54 ERA in a career-high 191 innings. He also threw 25 innings in the postseason.
“Honestly, I felt good,” deGrom said. “I was hoping I would get a start there in Game 6. Unfortunately, I didn’t. But even when the season was over, I felt good. There were no different aches and pains than the year before. I don’t think anything was any different.”
That’s good news for the Mets, who watched deGrom flourish in the Division Series and NLCS. His defeat in Game 2 of the World Series was his only loss in four postseason starts.
Before that, he outdueled Clayton Kershaw, striking out 13 in seven shutout innings against the Dodgers to open the NLDS. He returned for the winner-take-all Game 5 and fought through early trouble to will the Mets to a series-clinching victory. He gave up only two runs in seven innings in his only start in a four-game NLCS sweep of the Cubs.
“I think it might have given me a little more confidence,” deGrom said of his postseason run.
But for all of those triumphs, it’s the last start that remains his motivation.
“I wish I had that World Series start back,” he said. “But other than that, I was pretty happy with how my postseason went. Of course, we wanted to win it all and fell a little short of that.”