Jacob DeGrom was at his best on Sunday when he broke the MLB record for most strikeouts in his first 200 games en route to help the New York Mets defeat the Atlanta Braves for the third night in a row.
DeGrom struckout 12 and played a perfect game in the sixth inning of his second start all season, appearing at Citi Field for the first time in 13 months as the Mets went 5-2 for their 12th win in 14 games.
That brings their season record to 70-39, exactly the same as the New York Yankees, as both teams try to reach a possible World Series.
Jacob DeGrom pitches in the fourth inning of the Mets victory over the Atlanta Braves
The crowd went crazy for their superstar pitcher, who returned after a 13-month absence
Two-time Cy Young Award winner DeGrom missed the final three months of last season with a strained right forearm and a sprained elbow, then was shut down late in spring training due to a stress response in his right scapula.
Finally, he returned to Washington on Tuesday and threw five innings of a one-run ball in a rare late Mets loss.
Now, on his much anticipated return to Queens, a dominant deGrom (1-0) retired his first 17 batters – 12 with strikeouts – before walking number 9 batter Ehire Adrianza with two outs in the sixth.
He also brought his strikeout record to 1,518 – the highest total for a pitcher in 200 career starts.
Pete Alonso drove in two runs and the first place Mets ended with 19 strikeouts – including three in a row by closer Edwin Díaz to end it. They took four out of five from Atlanta in their NL East showdown, extending their divisional lead to 6 1/2 games over the defending World Series champions.
New York fans had to wait a little longer than planned to watch DeGrom go to work, as the start of the game was delayed by 20 minutes due to rain. Once the game started, however, he didn’t disappoint the Citi Field crowd.
DeGrom broke the all-time strikeout record with his 1,518th in just 200 MLB games
The Mets won again, their third straight win over the Braves and their 12th in 14 games
A standing ovation greeted the 34-year-old ace before stepping on the mound and his first throw was a 99mph fast ball that Swanson threw into right field for first out. The righthander then struckout Matt Olson on four pitches, each of which was 100 mph or faster.
DeGrom made his 200th Major League-start, finishing this season with the most strikeouts by a Mets pitcher. With shadows creeping across the infield during a late afternoon start, Atlanta swung and missed on each of its first 18 sliders.
While DeGrom silenced the Atlanta bats, the Mets scored four against rookie Spencer Strider (6-4) in the third.
Brandon Nimmo led off with an infield single and moved to third base on Francisco Lindor’s single to the middle. Alonso delivered the big hit of the inning with a double to the bag for third base. Daniel Vogelbach walked and both big sluggers chug home on Mark Canha’s double in the left-center hole.
Brandon Nimmo celebrates after scoring a run in the third inning at Citi Field on Sunday
Strider needed 79 pitches to complete 2 2/3 innings in the shortest start of his career. The Mets added another run in the fifth when Jeff McNeil ran home on a wild pitch.
Joely Rodríguez gave up one basehit and struckout four batters in 2 1/3 scoreless innings, replacing deGrom. Díaz fanned all three batters in the ninth for his 26th save.
For the second game in a row, the Mets fans taunted the Braves in the ninth inning by chopping the tomahawk.
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