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The Mets That Didn’t Mets

Jacob deGrom [1] was wonderful, and Jacob deGrom … won?

No really, he did, and it wasn’t even that bumpy. Which isn’t to say it was entirely smooth sailing: the Nats brought the tying run to the plate against Seth Lugo [2] in the eighth and again against Robert Gsellman [3] in the ninth, causing warning klaxons to blare all over Metland. But these were just scares. The eighth ended with a ground ball to Todd Frazier [4], who converted it into your run-of-the-mill 5-4-5 double play. Gsellman looked weary in letting in a run in the ninth, but set Juan Soto [5] up with change-ups before finishing him with a 98 MPH high fastball and then got Ryan Zimmerman [6] — who exactly no one wanted to see batting with a chance to wreck things for the Mets — to hit a long but not particularly dangerous foul fly that Brandon Nimmo [7] secured in right. And that was it: the Mets had won [8] and so had Jake.

Perhaps helping a bit is that the Nationals look ready to go home, and who can blame them after this smoking crater of a year? A couple of things happened to the Nats Friday night: they secured a losing season against the Mets and were eliminated from the division chase. Bryce Harper [9] looks completely checked out, as SNY dissected at length, and there’s an air of sour resignation around his teammates. The Nats’ talent pipeline is far from empty, what with Soto and Victor Robles [10] having arrived, but this year may get recorded in franchise history as the last X’ed-out line of a paper dynasty.

But enough about the competition. DeGrom was great, and if that seems a rather unadorned way of putting it, it’s because I’ve run out of superlatives. The man’s had the grand total of one lousy start in 2018 [11], and even that wasn’t that bad: on April 10 [12] he gave up four runs to the Marlins in six innings. That’s the sub total of deGrom being lousy this season. Otherwise he’s combined hellacious pitches with cerebral tactics to forge a season that’s been historically dominant, yielding comparisons to Gooden and Seaver and Gibson. He’s the front-runner for the Cy Young [13] award and a credible candidate to be MVP, particularly if you poll those familiar with WAR as a measure of a player’s value.

Alas, his teammates’ contributions have turned a historically dominant year into a historically weird one. DeGrom is now 9-9 and the Mets are 13-18 in his starts, which is absurd — with numbers like those you’d expect him to be knocking on the door of a 20-win season. (And for the Mets to be about 10 games better, but let’s not go down that rabbit hole of regret.) You probably knew all that and didn’t need me to tell you, but it bears repeating, because you get to cheer for a year like this only every baseball generation or so.

DeGrom’s been almost invariably great and the Mets have often been frustratingly lousy, and you’ve been able to see it on the field and probably also on your own couch — his teammates have sometimes seemed to be walking on eggshells, trying desperately not to fail, and sometimes I’ve felt like I should apologize myself when things have gone wrong, as if I cheered poorly or otherwise failed him from my post miles away from the actual game. Through it all deGrom has been admirably imperturbable, though there are exceptions — at one point early Friday, deGrom spread his arms questioningly after not getting a call, which Sam Holbrook put up with because, hey, that was deGrom out there.

Barring some ill-advised rotation shenanigans, deGrom will take the mound one last time in 2018, on Wednesday night at Citi Field against the Braves. In the excitement of his finishing kick, Greg and I started firing off Twitter DMs, and convened an impromptu Faith & Fear summit to see our ace deliver his valedictory address. We’ll be there to bear witness; if you can do it, you should be there too. It may be a long time before we see such a campaign again.