The Mets have left themselves little margin for error in their attempt to make the postseason, so their plan to give Jacob deGrom extra rest by taking advantage of off days is over, at least for now.
DeGrom is slated to start again Friday, five days after his last outing. For much of the abbreviated season, the Mets preferred to have the right-hander pitch every fifth game.
Before the Mets’ 11-2 loss to the Orioles at Citi Field, manager Luis Rojas said the plan “as of now” was to start Rick Porcello Wednesday, with deGrom going Friday following Thursday’s off day. Seth Lugo would go Saturday.
If the Mets stick with that plan, which was hatched, according to Rojas, by deGrom and pitching coach Jeremy Hefner, the ace would still start four more times during the regular season. But it makes sense to try to make sure those outings count for something, with the Mets on the fringes of the postseason.
It’s no surprise the Mets want the right-hander on the mound as often as possible, with deGrom once again in the conversation for NL Cy Young.
“That’s one of the reasons in it,’’ Rojas said of the decision to start deGrom Friday instead of Saturday. “Jake is one of the best — if not the best — pitchers in the world.”
The move also allows deGrom to stay in his preferred rest.
“He can keep his routine,’’ Rojas said. “He wants to keep his routine and his routine is every five days. That’s one of the reasons we’re doing it, too.”
There’s also the fact the Mets’ rotation, once expected to be the team’s strong point, is a wreck, so there’s no one exactly forcing his way into making more starts.
The list of disappointments is long, from Noah Syndergaard’s spring Tommy John surgery, to Marcus Stroman opting out of the season due to COVID concerns, to Michael Wacha and Porcello disappointing as free-agent signings.
After his previous start, when deGrom was again excellent in limiting the Phillies to one run over seven innings on Sunday, he said he was “prepared” to go every fifth day the remainder of the season.
DeGrom said there was going to be a “conversation” regarding how often he was used — and he noted he would still make the same amount of starts, but it “would probably be what happens.”
The Mets have won six of his eight starts this year and he’s allowed more than two runs just once in those outings — and even then, only one of those was earned.
Most of his numbers have been even better in 2020 than in his Cy Young campaigns, with a WHIP of 0.875 and a strikeout rate of 13.1 per nine innings — both of which would be career-bests, albeit with an asterisk.
As the offense tries to finally find its footing, the Mets still had a rotation ERA of 5.13 heading into Tuesday’s game, according to Fangraphs.
As for deGrom’s effectiveness, he’s been dominant no matter how much — or little — time off he’s given. He’s also thrown more than 100 pitches in each of his past three starts.
Following the last one, deGrom said he felt good from the first pitch until his final one to complete the seventh inning.
Though deGrom can’t get the Mets to the playoffs on his own, it seems the team is ready to make sure it gets everything out of him that it can.