June 14--ATLANTA -- Jacob deGrom says all the right things. The Mets ace stands in front of his locker every fifth day and laments the team losing, but not the fact that he himself has to take loss after loss despite putting up Cy Young-worthy numbers.
But occasionally, on the field, deGrom's body language says it all.
Wednesday afternoon, when Dansby Swanson scored on Freddie Freeman's single, on a ground ball that a rushing-in Brandon Nimmo simply couldn't get to, deGrom shook his head. That is not the 29-year-old showing his teammate up, it was resignation. It was as if he knew that one run in the fourth inning was going to be insurmountable.
The Mets' anemic lineup managed just two hits and were shutout by Braves rookie righthander Mike Soroka, losing 2-0 in their final game at SunTrust Park this season.
"We're not winning ball games," deGrom said when asked if there was any moral victories in the incredible numbers he is putting up. "Nobody's happy with what is happening."
Over his last 10 starts, deGrom has an 0.87 ERA, but the Mets are 2-8 in those games. That is the fewest wins by a team in a 10-start span by a pitcher with an ERA that low since earned runs became an official stat in both leagues starting in 1913, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The offense is the obvious reason for these recent struggles.
"I told him I'm sorry after the game," Todd Frazier said. "I said, 'Dude I'm sorry, I'm not sure what's going on, I don't know why we're not producing for you.' We talk about trying too hard. Maybe we're trying too hard when he's pitching."
The offense hasn't been producing for anyone. It has been brutal since the beginning of May, averaging less than three runs per game.
That adds to the stress for all the Mets pitchers.
"I think all of our pitchers are at that point where every inning is a stressful inning," Mickey Callaway said. "The thing about stressful innings is that doesn't show up until later. I am definitely concerned about that."
That's why Callaway pulled deGrom after seven innings, having watched him grind through high-leverage situations.
"I haven't really noticed it," deGrom said of the stressful innings. "I want to go up there and put up zeroes whether there are runners on or no runners on."
Defensive lapses are also putting deGrom into more precarious spots.
Wednesday, Kurt Suzuki's ground ball getting by Michael Conforto forced deGrom to face the Charlie Culberson with runners on the corners. Amed Rosario's lazy missed tag on Ender Inciarte in the seventh forced deGrom to work yet again with a runner in scoring position. He eventually picked him off trying to steal third, but Jay Bruce's misread on a fly ball to the next hitter, and Conforto's failure to back him up on the play, put deGrom right back in a high-leverage situation.
The Mets' lack of defensive talent was even more stark against the Braves' young and athletic defense, which picked up their rookie starter when he needed it. Ozzie Albies' tremendous lunging grab of Brandon Nimmo's liner in the second and Swanson's terrific grab and spinning throw of Kevin Plawecki's ground ball are the type of plays deGrom and the Mets pitchers can only hope for these days.
Bruce called it a "terrible play" and took responsibility. Callaway said he doesn't see a lack of effort in the defense, just some lack of "focus."
But in the end, it all contributes to the stress on deGrom.
"I know (deGrom) doesn't care about the wins and losses by his name, but he's been essentially perfect every time he goes out there and we've wasted them," Bruce said. "That's as frustrating as can be."
He has done all he can to pick this team up and turn this around, but it's quickly getting beyond help. With the Mets free-falling out of contention, rumors of deGrom getting traded to a team in contention -- one that could actually pick him up with their bats and gloves -- are growing.
"It's kind of pointless to think about. None of that is in my control," deGrom said of getting dealt before next month's deadline. "I try to go out there every fifth day and give us a chance to win."
And when the Mets inevitably fail to get that win, deGrom just has to stand there and try to say the right thing no matter how much the losing is getting to him.
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