WASHINGTON — Some of baseball’s best players have changed teams in the past few days, including Juan Soto, the talented young slugger who was traded from the Washington Nationals to the San Diego Padres before Major League Baseball’s trade deadline on Tuesday.
The Mets made a few trades, but only to improve the team. They did nothing spectacular except welcome the pitcher of the generation.
Jacob de Grom, the two-time National League Cy Young Award winner, returned to the mound Tuesday night after more than a year sidelined with injuries and looked almost as dominant as ever.
DeGrom, who has been out since spring training with a stress reaction injury to his right shoulder blade, threw five innings of powerful baseball and allowed one run and three hits while striking out six. The Nationals were playing a depleted lineup after sending Soto and Josh Bell to the Padres for a valuable collection of prospects, and they looked overmatched and confused for much of the game.
Displaying his signature fastball and mixing it with fast pitches at key moments in the offense, deGrom hit 100 mph 13 times among his 59 pitches, including one that hit 101.6 mph against Victor Robles in Washington’s first game.
When he hit veteran Nelson Cruz with a slider in the second inning, Cruz returned to the bench shaking his head.
But in an act of caution, the Mets pulled deGrom, who is 34 and has a history of injury problems, after the fifth inning. The Nationals won 5-1 with home runs from Luis Garcia and Yadiel Hernandez off Steven Nogosek off Sixth Street.
But that was a very small picture. More importantly, deGrom has looked strong and nearly unattainable — in other words, like himself — and fans can now see a fascinating playoff rotation for the top-seeded Mets with deGrom and Max Scherzer at the helm. he.
Many of those fans flocked to Nationals Park on Tuesday, eager to see deGraw for the first time since July 7, 2021, when a right forearm injury forced him to miss the rest of the season. Then in spring training, he developed a stress reaction that could lead to a stress fracture.
His return came almost 13 months after his last appearance.
“Can you imagine having that potential at your fingertips and not achieving it?” Mets manager Buck Showalter said before the game.
An hour later, at 6:24 p.m., deGrom walked out of the Mets dugout and headed toward the bullpen, sparking a few dozen fans already in the park. When he first took the mound in the first inning, the crowd swelled into the thousands and gave DeGrom a standing ovation.
The Nationals’ only run against him came in the fourth inning when Robles advanced and stole second base. He scored when Garcia hit a 99 mph fastball into right field. But deGrom got out of the way the rest of the inning, needing only eight pitches to get to the bottom of the fifth.
Francisco Lindor led off the sixth to tie the night at 1-1, so DeGrom was not charged with the loss. Performances wasted by poor attacking support or faulty terrain. Over his last four seasons, deGrom’s earned run average was 1.94, but his win-loss record was just 32-21.
The Mets hope that with a better team and closer Edwin Diaz, who has been excellent this year, many of those unfortunate losses can be turned into wins, especially in the postseason. After that comes the more unknown. DeGrom said he planned to opt out of his contract and become a free agent.
But for now, and the rest of the year, the Mets will be happy to treat him as a big addition on trade deadline day.