NEW YORK — On Friday night, as the New York Mets were beating the Washington Nationals at Citi Field, I sent former Mets pitcher Frank Viola a text. “Is this the best you’ve ever seen him?”
I was talking about Jacob deGrom, whom Viola knows well because he coached him in the minors years ago. When I sent the text, deGrom had already set a Major League Baseball record for most strikeouts over the first four starts of the season with 50, passing Shane Bieber (48 this season) and Nolan Ryan (48 in 1978). The ace had also struck out a career-high 15 batters and was in the midst of what became the second complete-game shutout of his career. In a couple of moments, Viola sent this response: “Just another game. He’s that special.” At this point, deGrom is amazing and baffling at the same time. We all probably ask ourselves the same question: How does the best keep getting better?
Friday might have been the best start of his career as he pitched a two-hitter to lead the Mets to a 6-0 victory over the Nationals. It was, without question, one of the best pitching performances in franchise history, but what made it better was deGrom also matched his opponent’s hit total with two of his own, including an RBI double. “He has to be from a different planet because he does things that seem out of this world,” outfielder Brandon Nimmo said.
“We’re witnessing something special,” manager Luis Rojas said. “It’s a special, special, special day,” said Tomás Nido, who had the honor of catching the masterpiece. As deGrom warmed up before the game, he noticed his stuff was really good — almost too good. “That made me a little nervous because I think some of my best starts, I’ve barely thrown strikes down there (in the bullpen),” he said. He soon took the mound and began firing bullets toward the strike zone while pinpointing them wherever he wanted.