A stiff back briefly interrupted Jacob deGrom’s buildup during spring training 2.0.
Only a limited pitch count because of that injury scare could do the same on Opening Day.
The two-time reigning Cy Young winner came out firing, looking ready to win a third as he threw five shutout innings Friday in the Mets’ 1-0 win over the Braves at Citi Field.
Though he exited early after 72 pitches, deGrom left his mark on the Braves lineup. The right-hander struck out eight, hitting 100 mph multiple times and allowing just one hit — a third-inning, broken-bat dribbler by Ronald Acuna Jr. that squeezed up the middle.
“I was just letting it fly and letting the chips fall where they may,” deGrom said. “I would’ve liked a little bit earlier contact, but I didn’t want to make any mistakes. I wanted to try to go out there and put up zeroes and give us a chance to win, which we were fortunate enough to get a win today. That was my main goal.”
In a start reminiscent of plenty along the way to his last two Cy Young awards, deGrom left the game in a 0-0 tie and was back in the clubhouse when Yoenis Cespedes delivered the only offense of the day with a solo home run in the seventh inning.
Looking like a pitcher with plenty of pent-up energy from the delay to the season, deGrom lit up the radar gun from the start and also flashed a sharp slider and changeup throughout the game. His first strikeout came on a 99 mph fastball to Acuna. By the fifth inning, he was still throwing 98 mph sliders to strike out Austin Riley and Dansby Swanson back-to-back.
“I felt really good in spring,” deGrom said. “Felt like the ball was coming out really well and then with this time off, I continued — I’m always working on my delivery and stuff, trying to get it as smooth as I can and repeat it. With this extra time off, I took the same approach, trying to stay as smooth and repeat my delivery, get my arm moving the way I wanted it to. Felt like I was very under control.”
In his final tuneup before Friday, deGrom had thrown 60 pitches in a simulated game. After getting to 72 on Friday, he is in line to take another step up Wednesday against the Red Sox.
“Jake was Jake today,” manager Luis Rojas said. “It’s just great to see him do what he does.”