Jacob deGrom was hamstrung once again Monday night.
Make no mistake, the right-hander’s leg appeared better after he had departed his previous start early with hamstring discomfort, but deGrom’s chances of true success — carrying the Mets to a needed victory — were hampered by a slumbering lineup.
The Fat Lady is clearing her throat, ready to belt out a rendition of “Meet the Mets,” following a 2-1 loss to the Rays at Citi Field that left the Mets three games behind in the race for the NL’s last wild-card spot with six remaining.
“I think everybody is kind of disappointed with where we are at,” deGrom said. “We wish we were in a better spot. I don’t know if ‘surprise’ is the right word. I think everybody is more disappointed at some of the games we let get away. Now we’ve got to watch other teams’ scores and hope we can get in this thing.”
DeGrom matched a career high with 14 strikeouts on a night he was allowed to remain in the game to throw 112 pitches over seven innings. He surrendered two earned runs on four hits with two walks, as his ERA inched from 2.09 to 2.14. The Brewers’ Corbin Burnes began Monday as the NL leader with a 1.77 ERA. In deGrom’s favor in a crowded race that also includes names such as Trevor Bauer, Max Fried and Dinelson Lamet are his NL-leading 94 strikeouts.
If the Mets ace ultimately misses out on winning a third straight Cy Young Award, he will remember last week’s start in Philadelphia, where he allowed three earned runs over two innings before departing with right hamstring discomfort.
“It’s a short year, everybody knew that coming in,” deGrom said. “I wish I had more starts. The one in Philly is frustrating, you leave in the second inning, so that didn’t help, really. And then tonight making a couple of mistakes. I felt like I had to put up zeroes for this team and I didn’t do it.”
DeGrom’s double-digit strikeout night followed similarly dominant performances by David Peterson and Rick Porcello. It marked the first time in franchise history the Mets had three straight starting pitchers record at least 10 strikeouts in a game. But the Mets won only Peterson’s start.
“We are known this season as a good offensive team,” manager Luis Rojas said. “Just not being able to back up those back-to-back quality starts, they are tough losses.”
The Mets (24-30) had few chances against the six pitchers the Rays unleashed. Overall, the Mets finished with only four hits, a day after they were shut out by the Braves.
Nate Lowe’s homer leading off the fourth put the Mets in a 2-0 hole. The blast was the fifth allowed this season by deGrom and first in his last three starts. Joey Wendle followed Lowe’s homer with a single, but was thrown out attempting to steal second by Wilson Ramos.
Wendle’s double in the second put runners on second and third, allowing the Rays to take a 1-0 lead on Manuel Margot’s sacrifice fly. Lowe’s walk leading off the inning hurt deGrom, as did Amed Rosario’s drop on a relay that might have nailed Lowe after he took too wide a turn at third base on Wendle’s double.
Jeff McNeil delivered an infield RBI single in the fifth that snapped the Mets’ 13-inning scoreless drought and pulled them within 2-1. The Mets had loaded the bases when Brandon Nimmo was plunked following Ramos’ single and a walk to Guillermo Heredia.
“As a whole it’s like we’re just missing something,” J.D. Davis said. “We have a couple of good games going and just hit a little bit of a lull, things just not going our way. We get a few barrels and we just hit them right at people.”