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Baby Steps

Can you have good developments on a day that saw the Mets lose a 1-0 game [1] on another homer off their vaunted closer?

Well, maybe.

The first good development is that the Mets put Jeurys Familia [2] on the Injured List with some kind of complicated malady that, depending on your level of cynicism, is best described as a bone spur or that old standby, inability to pitch. If you feel like you need to squint pretty hard to see that as good, I get what you mean, believe me. But Familia hadn’t been effective, he seemed lost about how to regain his effectiveness, and Mickey Callaway [3] seemed hell-bent on continuing to jam that particular square peg into a round hole, because he’s Mickey Callaway and there’s no brick wall he thinks he can’t bash down with his own forehead, the lack of felled brick walls notwithstanding. Hopefully Familia will get the time he needs to silence his barking shoulder and/or the nagging voices of self-doubt, and return looking more like the valuable pitcher we hoped we were getting back. (As for Mickey and his noggin, well, we’ll save that for another post.)

The second good development was that Jacob deGrom [4] looked a lot more like, well, Jacob deGrom. He was throwing strikes and the Reds were swinging and missing his fastball instead of lining that pitch up gaps. But deGrom’s good stuff came without the benefit of an accompanying offense, and in the fourth inning the Reds loaded the bases on an error, walk and a hit by pitch. With two outs, up came Tucker Barnhart [5], who worked a 3-2 count. Out to the mound went Tomas Nido [6] to discuss what to do.

Their decision — and I’ve yet to hear whether it was Nido’s preference or deGrom’s — was to go with the change-up. Which is a pitch that’s gone from critical piece of deGrom’s arsenal to misfiring ordnance of late. With deGrom’s mechanics out of whack, his change-up has been sailing wide of its target, winding up ignorably outside or perilously over the middle of the plate. An errant change and the game could easily be 4-0 Reds.

DeGrom fired, the pitch arrowed towards the plate as if it were a fastball above the knee, and then it darted outside to dot the outside corner — a perfect location even if Barnhart hadn’t swung through it. Barnhart let his swing carry him through a discontented little pirouette at the plate as Nido trotted towards the dugout and deGrom trudged off the mound. SNY’s cameras caught him looking tired and vaguely irritated, as if he was thinking, “Why wasn’t that pitch behaving like that when I needed it?”

Which I’d bet is pretty much exactly what he was thinking.

During deGrom’s run of un-deGromlike starts, the Mets have insisted that the problem wasn’t a physical malady, and haven’t officially cast a cold organizational eye on the composition of this year’s baseballs. They’ve maintained that the problem was one of mechanics, compounded by illness and disrupted between-starts routines.

It would be nice if Wednesday night was evidence they were right, whatever the scoreboard read at the end of the evening.