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SAN FRANCISCO – Jacob deGrom last started a postseason game Oct. 28, 2015.
A career filled with postseason starts seemed like a real possibility at that time since the New York Mets possessed a rotation stocked with young flamethrowers. Teams envied the quartet of deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz.
Those plans of future dominance have not come to fruition due to a combination of injuries, ineffectiveness and poor roster construction.
The Mets were bested by the San Francisco Giants in the 2016 wild card game, and haven’t been relevant since. A third straight losing season seems on the horizon after they fell nine games games under .500 again on Friday, a result which would leave one of the game’s elite pitchers watching postseason baseball from the sidelines again.
“I don’t think anybody is worried right yet. A lot of things can happen,” deGrom said. “There’s a lot of baseball left. Two tough games, new day tomorrow.”
The Mets are the only team deGrom has ever pitched from, and his path from a ninth-round pick to a Cy Young Award winner is an all-time success story.
It’s a well-known tale around the Mets that when the team called him up in 2014, they also summoned Rafael Montero, who was actually the more touted youngster.
DeGrom has since cemented himself as one of the game’s best.
Montero has six career wins.
Despite deGrom’s brilliance since his debut, the Mets have posted just two winning seasons in his six with the team —baring an unexpected turnaround this season —which has prevented him from producing gems like he did in the 2015 NLDS.
DeGrom outdueled both Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke at Dodger Stadium in that series, and the Mets eventually reached the World Series.
The Mets’ lack of wins since that postseason did not dissuade deGrom from signing a $137.5-million contract extension this offseason, and with that extension, he potentially married himself to this organization through the 2024 season.
It appears the first year of that extension will be a waste even after his former agent and new Mets general manager, Brodie Van Wagenen, tried to build a winning team around deGrom this offseason on the strength of some bold moves.
Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz have not been the difference markers they were acquired to be, and signing Jeurys Familia and Jed Lowrie has provided little value.
DeGrom is just 5-7 despite a 3.02 ERA.
The team’s 44-53 record will result in them being sellers again, which raises questions about how much winning the team can do while he’s still a Met.
This team does not expect to have much wiggle room to spend this offseason, and could have to replace two rotation spots. The bullpen also needs upgrades.
With Atlanta seemingly set to rule the NL East for years to come, the Mets are going to face an uphill battle to reach the postseason during deGrom’s years.
DeGrom remains upbeat, believing this team has a core that can win.
“Yeah, definitely,” deGrom said. “There’s a lot of good baseball players in here. We just have to put some things together.”
DeGrom showcased Friday why it’s a shame his team can’t get him to the postseason with the righty carving up the Giants.
It’s a tall task for hitters to try to figure out how to beat a pitcher with an upper 90’s fastball, and a slider that he can pinpoint to any quadrant of the zone.
DeGrom used those two pitches to escape a jam in the sixth in a scoreless game.
He first struck out Pablo Sandoval with an inside slider, a pitch that Sandoval had chased four times in their encounter in the first inning.
DeGrom then struck out Stephen Vogt with an elevated 99-mph fastball to end the threat. He induced 25 whiffs with 22 coming off his fastball (14) and slider (eight).
Yet, for all his brilliance, deGrom received a no-decision in the 1-0 loss.
In typical Mets fashion, his team allowed unheralded righty Tyler Beede to produce eight scoreless innings, his longest outing of the year.
It marked the fifth time in the last two seasons deGrom has received a no-decision after throwing at least seven scoreless innings.
The Giants won in the 10th when Mets left fielder Dom Smith dropped a fly ball, allowing Alex Dickerson to score from first base.
“Jake pitched a great game tonight,” Smith said. “When he has outings like that we have to give him support and we didn’t do that and it cost us the game.”
DeGrom isn’t going anywhere in years to come, and the Mets can only continue to try to build a team around him that can finally win.
His showing in the 2015 postseason created memories for fans that will never be forgotten, and most Mets fans expected more in years to come.
As Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, among others, again make postseason starts, the Mets’ ace that is just as good as them will only watch.
The Mets are wasting the chance to get their ace his shot at a ring.
“These two losses [to the Giants] are tough, but everybody in this room does a good job of coming in like it’s a new day,” deGrom said. “Tomorrow is a new day. Obviously a lot of baseball left.”
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