baseball

Mets’ Jacob deGrom dominates rehab start

The struggling Mets got another boost of optimism Sunday when fellow ace Jacob deGrom, who has been out all season, struck out five of the six batters he faced in his rehab start for Class A St. Lucie.

Eighteen of deGrom’s 24 pitches went for strikes, with his fastball topping 100 miles per hour. He struck out the only batter who didn’t hit.

Combine that progress with Max Scherzer’s expected return from the injured list this week, and the Mets’ pitching staff could finally be what general manager Billy Eppler envisioned this off-season. The team needs all the help it can get given how poorly its offense has performed in recent weeks.

“I felt like I had everything under control,” deGrom told reporters after Sunday’s start. “The main thing was trying to locate the fastball and pitch it. Everything was good.”

More important than deGrom’s results in his six-batter appearance, he said his shoulder, which has sidelined him since spring training because of a stress reaction in his scapula, isn’t limiting him.

“It feels 100 percent,” he said. “Because it was a bone — you can’t really push it. I had to wait until the bone healed and move on from there.

Despite the strong outing and lack of soreness, deGrom is expected to need several minor league starts before he returns to the majors.

The Mets got off to a rough start this season, and with the offense plummeting, they held onto their lead over the Atlanta Braves in the National League East. Scherzer has only started eight games, though, and hasn’t started a major league game since July 7 of last season, along with deGrom.

Critical to that first half have been Taijuan Walker (6-2, 2.72 ERA) and David Peterson (5-1, 3.24), who have helped offset injuries that have plagued not only deGrom and Scherzer, but also Tyler McGill. The right-hander had some promising results earlier this season before landing on the injured list with an injured shoulder. Chris Bassitt, a 2021 All-Star with Oakland acquired in a spring training trade, was placed on the injured list on July 1, but the lack of an injury designation suggested he may be out for a coronavirus-related absence. His pitching arm.

Even Scherzer and deGrom may need more help than the Mets’ hitters have been providing the past few weeks. After winning two of three at home in the weekend series against the Texas Rangers, the Mets are still 29th in the majors in on-base plus slugging percentage (.639) over the past 15 days, behind only the Oakland Athletics. Pete Alonso continues to perform, but every other Mets hitter has taken a steep decline, none more so than veteran outfielder Mark Canha, who has gone 3 for 34 in his last this off-season.

If the Mets hope to catch Atlanta, which is rising after a rough start last season, pitching health and a return to form for the team’s hitters will be critical.

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