The Mets' suddenly infamous "330 rule" nearly ruined a brilliant pitching performance by rookie Jacob deGrom on Tuesday night at Citi Field. If you haven't already heard of the rule, manager Terry Collins has said all season that the club tries to limit its young pitchers to no more than 330 pitches in three consecutive starts as a means of avoiding arm trouble.
DeGrom was 13 pitches short of that standard when he was lifted Tuesday night with a 2-0 lead after allowing three hits, striking out nine and walking none in eight complete innings, retiring the final 14 hitters he faced. Mets closer Jenrry Mejia nearly blew it by loading the bases with one out in the ninth, but Josh Edgin fanned Corey Dickerson for the second out and Jeurys Familia got a groundout for the save.
Colorado starter Christian Bergman (2-3) matched deGrom (8-6) zero for zero through the first four innings, but Matt den Dekker pounded a one-out double to left in the fifth and scored on a single by Juan Lagares. In the sixth, Travis d'Arnaud drilled a two-out single and scored on Curtis Granderson's double to the base of the wall in right-centerfield.
By that time, deGrom had reduced the Rockies to mere speed bumps with his cool efficiency. He extended his streak of not allowing an earned run to 22 innings dating to his final inning Aug. 23.
Over his past 13 starts, deGrom is 8-2 with a 1.77 ERA. Those numbers might earn him strong Rookie of the Year consideration. But Collins said the temptation to leave him in a game to compete for that award was trumped by the organization's determination to keep him healthy.
"This kid has had a 'Tommy John' before," Collins said before the game, referring to elbow surgery. "There's no shelf life for those. It can happen again. As much as we'd like to accumulate some innings for him and pick some good spots for him to pitch, I think we can't. In his case, we back off a little bit."
In his two previous starts, deGrom totaled 217 pitches, meaning his maximum Tuesday night under the 330 rule was 113. He struck out pinch hitter Ben Paulsen with his 100th pitch of the night (including 75 strikes) to end the eighth.
Collins wasn't about to let deGrom push his limit in the ninth. The Mets nearly paid for it when closer Mejia came unglued, but they managed to get their sixth win in seven games.