For a while on Sunday, Mets ace Jacob deGrom looked almost perfect. Through four innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks, he kept the opponents off base and his fastball kept flirting with triple digits, even as he appeared uncomfortable at times on the Citi Field mound.
But in the fifth, deGrom began showing real signs that something was amiss — and fans feared the “right side tightness” that caused him to skip a start last week had returned with a vengeance.
Pitching to a 2-0 lead, he suddenly lost command of the strike zone, walking three in the frame, and gave up a hit — a very un-deGrom inning considering how dominant the two-time Cy Young Award-winning hurler has been thus far this young season.
DeGrom limited the struggling Diamondbacks’ lineup to just a single run that inning, but after throwing two warmup pitches before the start of the sixth, the ace shook his head. He knew his afternoon was over.
Manager Luis Rojas pulled deGrom from the game, and the pitcher headed into the clubhouse; indeed, the right side tightness had returned — though this time, Rojas said after the game, it’s more concentrated on his lower back.
DeGrom is scheduled to undergo an MRI to find out what the situation is, Rojas added.
“We don’t know exactly what happened, he had a long inning,” he said. “We’ll probably get more clarity later on tonight [Sunday].”
The concerns over the Mets’ ace overshadowed the team’s fifth-straight win, 4-2, their longest win streak since 2019.
The Amazins’ got on the board in the third with catcher James McCann leading off with a base hit, and deGrom moving him over with a bunt single. Two batters later, shortstop Francisco Lindor — who’s been heating up over the past week — drove McCann in with a sacrifice fly. Rightfielder Michael Conforto then plated deGrom with a single.
Conforto almost got into a disastrous outfield collision in deGrom’s troublesome fifth inning, when they pursued a fly ball from Arizona’s Stephen Vogt that wound up landing between them as they dove; Vogt wound up with a double. Pillar’s head clipped Conforto’s cleat, bloodying his ear and head, but he wound up staying in the game.
After loading the bases with nobody, deGrom worked his way out of trouble, with Arizona’s only run of the frame scored on a double play ball hit by shortstop Nick Ahmed. DeGrom then struck out pinch-hitter Christian Walker after issuing his third walk of the inning to Daulton Varsho.
The game went to the Mets’ bullpen in the sixth after deGrom departed the game. Miguel Castro proceeded to hit the leadoff hitter Pavin Smith, then walked right fielder Josh Rojas. Castro then got out of the jam by retiring the next three innings.
Arizona then gifted the Mets another run in the bottom of the sixth after reliever Kevin Ginkel loaded the bases by walking first baseman Pete Alonso, hit leftfielder Dom Smith with a pitch and walking pinch-hitter Jonathan Villar. Reliever J.B. Bukauskas then allowed a two-out walk to Mets backup catcher Patrick Mazeika, scoring Alonso.
The Mets tacked on another run in the seventh on a one-out single by Smith, driving in Lindor, who led off the frame with a hit.
Former Met Asdrubal Cabrera punched a leadoff home run off Barnes into the left field stands to lead off the eighth for the Diamondbacks. After giving up a one-out double to Rojas, Barnes gave way to closer Edwin Diaz for a five-out save attempt amid the pouring rain at Citi Field.
Diaz then plunked second baseman Josh VanMeter to put the tying run on base, but he got out of the jam by forcing left fielder David Peralta to ground into a 4-6-3 double play. Diaz then struck out the side in the ninth for his fifth save of the year.
The victory put the Mets back into first place in the National League Eastern Division, a half-game up on the second-place Philadelphia Phillies, and three games over .500.
The Mets are off Monday; they’ll begin a two-game set with the Baltimore Orioles at Citi Field on Tuesday night at 7:10 p.m.