- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

It’s Darkest Before deGrom

Jacob deGrom [1] was pitching his usual brilliant game, en route to shutting out the Atlanta Braves long enough to convince us the worst-case scenario Wednesday night would involve how the bullpen would blow the slim lead he protected, assuming the Mets ever figured out how to score a run off Sean Newcomb.

That would have been a fantastic worst-case scenario.

Instead, Jake mysteriously disappeared down the Ray Ramirez Memorial Tunnel of Doom after four innings. New training protocols, old frightening visions. What the hell was wrong with deGrom and when would he be back? The answer to the first part eventually trickled out: hyperextended right elbow, a phrase typed en masse through the Mets Twitterverse despite few of us having any idea what it meant in general or to deGrom specifically. Those advanced medical degrees we earned Googling “spinal stenosis” in 2015 haven’t made us measurably more insightful.

Jake aggravated something while swinging a bat and it didn’t feel any better throwing a ball. DeGrom’s a good-hitting pitcher, but that’s not the core competency the Mets will miss if deGrom misses significant time. I’m throwing the “if” in there because as of the chatter following the oh-by-the-way second-place Mets’ 7-0 loss [2] to the first-place Braves, there was no definitive or reliably speculative word regarding deAbsence. For all the injuries that have felled Mets pitchers in recent years, hyperextended elbow seems to be a new one. J.J. Putz, before he was a Met, had one and came back in a matter of weeks. Lucas Duda had one last year and wasn’t out for an eternity.

Neither was or is deGrom. DeGrom, along with Yoenis Cespedes, looms as the supremely irreplaceable element of the 2018 New York Mets. There was a shortage of oxygen between Sunday and Tuesday from how much we held our breath over Yoenis’s thumb, but he was deemed all right; we all exhaled; and Yo has been playing all digits blazing ever since. That felt like some fancy bullet-dodging. Yet for what are the Mets profited if they gain the Yo world, and forfeit their ace? Despite deGrom being asked to work his magic only every fifth day, he’s every bit as important to the Mets’ competitive aspirations and psyche. Every other starting pitcher, whether by commission or omission, has let the Mets down in some capacity in the past season-plus. Not deGrom. He kept us going last year when nobody else could and he’s elevated us this year as nobody else has.

Wheeler’s always dicey. Harvey’s a stale soap opera of diminished returns. Thor has not found his groove. Vargas is Vargas and he wasn’t even that in his first start. Matz’s stiff back moved everybody up a day, which seems to have — “regular rest” aside — meddled with the primal forces of nature. All the while, DeGrom was busy being deGrom: 3-0, 1.87 ERA, 54 strikeouts in 43.1 innings. The Mets, despite tailing off from their scalding earliest-season pace, remained viable in the role of serious contender as long as they could count on Jake’s turn through the rotation. Without him, we’re gonna need more oxygen, an encouraging MRI result and another dose of the luck that maintained Cespedes’s spot in the lineup.

UPDATE: MRI shows no structural damage, Jake says he feels fine, Mets say he will make his next scheduled start Monday. This is either very good news or setting us up for god knows what.