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Everything Is Jake

Jacob deGrom [1] was good. He was really good.

Not so long ago, this wouldn’t have been a surprising thing to write. But it’s been a surprising season, to put it mildly.

The key to deGrom’s successful night was that he reintroduced his change-up to complement his fastball. In the postgame debrief, DeGrom passed along analysis from Dan Warthen [2] that he’d thrown the change 4% of the time this year, compared with 20% in years past. Delve a little deeper into the postgame comments and you wound up in chicken-and-the-egg territory: deGrom had shelved the change-up because it kept floating up to the plate and getting hammered, and so worked on his mechanics to keep himself closed and restore the change-up’s bite. Which led to reclaiming the pitch. Or maybe it was the other way around.

But then pitching is often chicken-and-the-egg stuff, with mechanics and command and confidence all in the mix and solutions hard to tease out. Whatever Jake had been doing wasn’t working — he got mauled by the Brewers [3] and then by the Rangers [4], and suddenly looked like the outlier with Zack Wheeler [5] continuing to improve, Matt Harvey [6] achieving better results and Seth Lugo [7] and Steven Matz [8] returning with debuts better than we’d dared imagine.

One run over nine innings — yes, that was a Met starter with a complete game — ought to take care of that narrative.

Flies in the ointment? But of course — this is still the Mets, after all. Seeing deGrom throw 116 pitches made me cringe, even if the last one was a 97 MPH fastball that erased Willson Contreras [9] for the win [10]. DeGrom hit 118 pitches in his turn as a fairy-tale hero [11] against the Pirates, a number he’d only exceeded twice in his career, and that outing was followed by the two stinkers. Correlation isn’t causation, of course, but there’s no arguing the chronology.

Still, I’m inclined to forgive both deGrom and Terry Collins [12] for this one. DeGrom clearly wanted an emphatic notice that he’s not the pitcher we saw slumped on the bench in Texas with a consoling managerial arm around his shoulders. A complete game would be a marker for the entire pitching staff, whose competition has turned healthy of late. And goodness knows the relief corps doesn’t need anything added to the odometer. (Jerry Blevins [13] was unavailable and Addison Reed [14] was iffy.)

On the other side of the ball, Asdrubal Cabrera [15] declared himself not dead yet with a pair of home runs, and Jay Bruce [16] chipped in another one — that’s 17 in what’s shaping up as a pretty interesting season for a Plan B outfielder that plenty of people (including me) wanted to leave by the curb in Port St. Lucie. Though Yoenis Cespedes [17] came out of the game with leg issues, and Michael Conforto [18] never got into the game with a sore back.

Cespedes’s leg issues, we’re told, have nothing to do with his balky and less-than-completely healed hamstring — this was a sore left heel. Oh, OK. On the one hand, I suppose that’s good because it’s not the hamstring but something else. On the other … it’s something else.

But that’s a pretty good description of this season, come to think of it. Accompany it with a smile, a groan or just an all-encompassing shrug, but it’s been something else.

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Were you at Shea Stadium the night of the ’77 blackout [19]? If you were, Patrick Sauer would like to talk with you for an article. He’s @pjsauer [20] over on Twitter, or email him here [21]. Thanks!