Jacob deGrom has been sharp for the Mets since returning from injury

WASHINGTON — Some of the best players in baseball have changed teams over the past few days, including talented young slugger Juan Soto, who was traded from the Washington Nationals to the San Diego Padres before Major League Baseball’s trade deadline on Tuesday.

The Mets made some trades of their own, but only to improve the team around the edges. He didn’t do anything spectacular except welcome the pitcher of the generation.

Jacob deGrom, the two-time winner of the National League Cy Young Award, returned to the mound Tuesday night after more than a year out due to injuries and looked as strong as ever.

DeGrom, who sat out spring training with a stress-reaction injury to his right shoulder blade, threw five innings of baseball at full strength and allowed one run and three hits while striking out six. The Nationals were playing with a depleted lineup after sending Soto and Josh Bell to the Padres earlier in the day for a collection of prized prospects, and they looked overwhelmed and bewildered for most of the game.

Showing off his signature fastball, and combining it with crafty off-speed pitches at key moments for strikeouts, deGrom hit 100 miles per hour 13 times in his 59 pitches, including 101.6 mph against Washington’s first batter Victor Robles.

When he hit veteran slugger Nelson Cruz with a 93 mph slider in the second inning, Cruz returned to the bench shaking his head.

But showing caution, the Mets removed deGrom, who is 34 and has a history of injury problems, after the fifth inning. The Nationals took advantage of back-to-back home runs by Luis Garcia and Yadiel Hernandez from relief pitcher Stefan Nogosek in the sixth, and the Nationals won 5–1.

But it was a very short film. The more important development is that deGrom looks strong and almost unhittable — that is, just like him — and fans can now see a clear picture of a tempting playoff pitching rotation for the first-place Mets, headed by deGrom and Max Scherzer. This is

Many fans, eager to see deGrom in person for the first time since July 7, 2021, poured into Nationals Park on Tuesday after a right forearm injury forced him to miss the rest of the season. Later in spring training he developed a stress reaction, which can lead to a stress fracture.

His return came almost 13 months after his last tour.

“Can you imagine having that ability at your fingertips and not being able to access it?” Buck Showalter, the Mets manager, said before the game.

An hour later, at 6:24 p.m., deGrom walked out of the Mets’ dugout and into the bullpen, eliciting an explosion of cheers from the few dozen fans already in the park. When he took the mound for the first time in the first inning, the crowd swelled to a thousand and they gave deGrom a standing ovation.

The Nationals’ only run against them came in the fourth inning when Robles led off with a ground ball single and stole second base. He scored when Garcia drove a 99 mph fastball into the right field gap. But deGrom missed the rest of that inning and needed just eight pitches to get to the fifth.

Francisco Lindor homered in the top of the sixth, evening the score, 1-1, so deGrom wasn’t charged with the loss, something the lanky right-hander was all too familiar with during his years with the Mets. Performances were marred by poor offensive support or faulty relief pitching. Over his last four seasons, deGrom’s earned run average was a remarkable 1.94, but his win-loss record was just 32-21.

With a good team behind them and Edwin Diaz, who has been terrific this year, the Mets hope to turn many unfortunate losses into wins, especially in the postseason. After that comes more unknowns. DeGrom said he plans to opt out of his contract and become a free agent.

But for now, and for the rest of the year, the Mets will be happy to consider him a great addition come trade deadline day.

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