The New York Mets are 10 games over .500 and entrenched atop the National League East. But the ability of the Mets to sustain their fast start may be determined long before they try to complete a home sweep of the Chicago Cubs Thursday night.
The news the Mets may get about the health of ace Jacob deGrom’s right arm will likely overshadow anything that happens when Marcus Stroman (6-4, 2.33 ERA) takes the mound against the Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks (8-4, 4.46 ERA) in the finale of the four-game series.
deGrom struck out eight over three perfect innings before departing with right shoulder soreness Wednesday night, when Kevin Pillar hit a solo homer and finished with two RBIs in a 6-3 win.
It was the second straight splendid start marred by an injury scare for deGrom, who threw six innings of one-hit ball against the San Diego Padres last Friday before leaving due to right flexor tendonitis.
An MRI on the elbow area came back clean last Saturday, and deGrom said initial strength tests on the shoulder were encouraging Wednesday night. The two-time National League Cy Young Award winner is expected to undergo a shoulder MRI Thursday.
An injured list stint would be the second of the season for deGrom, who was sidelined for 16 days in May due to a sore right side.
“I think (an injured list decision) is going to be based on what we see (Thursday), and that’ll probably be a discussion to be had, but the competitor in me wants to be out there,” a downcast deGrom said Wednesday night. “It’s frustrating leaving games early.”
The Mets, who are five games ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East, have one of the deepest rotations in baseball — Stroman’s ERA ranks ninth in the NL but third on the team behind deGrom and Taijuan Walker — and have placed 18 players on the injured list.
But it’d be particularly difficult to replace deGrom, who is building a case to not just win another Cy Young Award but to become the rare pitcher who wins the Most Valuable Player Award.
In addition to dominating the Cubs and lowering his ERA to a minuscule 0.54 — the lowest by a starter through 11 appearances since at least 1913 — deGrom contributed an RBI single in his lone plate appearance. deGrom has more RBIs (six) than earned runs allowed (four).
“He came out and we were highly concerned,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “Right now we’re not as concerned. (Thursday) we’ll probably get more clarity on what’s going on there and then we’ll meet and talk more about what the plan is.”
The Cubs, who were limited to one hit until a ninth-inning rally, have scored just seven runs in the first three games of the series against the Mets, who are 20-6 at Citi Field. Chicago reached New York in the midst of a five-game winning streak.
“We know there’s ups and downs in the season,” said Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who homered in the fourth inning. “The Mets play really well at home, we know that. They’ve lived up to it and we’ve just come up on the short end of it.”
Stroman earned the win last Saturday, when he allowed one run over 6 1/3 innings as the Mets beat the San Diego Padres, 4-1. Hendricks won his sixth straight start Saturday after giving up two runs over six innings in the Cubs’ 7-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Stroman is 1-1 with a 2.40 ERA in two career starts against the Cubs. Hendricks is 3-0 with a 2.63 ERA in four regular season starts against the Mets.
–Field Level Media