FLUSHING, Queens — Jacob deGrom struck out a career-high 15, pitched a two-hitter and boosted the sagging Mets’ offense with a go-ahead double from the No. 8 spot in the batting order, powering New York over the Washington Nationals 6-0 Friday night.
DeGrom has struck out 43 in his last three starts and 50 overall this season, breaking the major league record for most in a pitcher’s first four starts set just last weekend by Cleveland ace Shane Bieber with 48.
Perennially plagued by a lack of run support, just like Mets star Tom Seaver decades earlier, deGrom lowered his career ERA to 2.55 and overtook Seaver (2.57) as New York’s franchise leader.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner retired the final 19 batters of his second shutout and fourth complete game in 187 starts, walking none. DeGrom also made the final putout, leaping on first base to catch Pete Alonso’s toss on Josh Harrison’s grounder.
Brandon Nimmo hit his first home run of the season, an eighth-inning drive off Kyle McGowin, and had four RBIs. The Mets stopped a three-game slide after getting to Citi Field at 4:15 a.m. after a Thursday night game at Chicago’s Wrigley Field.
DeGrom (2-1) was coming off consecutive 14-strikeout games against Miami and Colorado, and New York gave him a fifth day of rest. He reached double-digit strikeouts for the third time this season and 49th overall. He joined Boston’s Pedro Martínez in 1999 and Houston’s Gerrit Cole in 2019 as the only pitchers to strike out 14 in three straight appearances.
Taking the mound to Lynard Skynyrd’s “Simple Man,” deGrom was anything but: He reached 100 mph on 10 of 109 pitches — including five in the first inning. Since the start of the 2020 season, deGrom has reached triple figures on 33 first-inning pitches; Miami’s Sixto Sánchez is a distant second with eight, according to MLB Statcast.
DeGrom struck out the side in the sixth and seventh innings and dropped his season ERA to 0.31 with one earned run allowed this season. The pandemic-limited crowd of 8,130 repeatedly chanted “M-V-P!”
It was the 16th time since 1901 that a pitcher had 15 or more strikeouts and no walks in a shutout.
Erick Fedde retired nine straight before hitting J.D. Davis on the back of his left leg with a one-out pitch in the fifth. Jeff McNeil worked a nine-pitch walk after falling behind 0-2 in the count and deGrom lined a belt-high sinker to the opposite field into left. Nimmo, back in the lineup after missing two starts with a sore right hip, ended an 0-for-8 slide by grounding a two-run single past first baseman Josh Bell, who tried for a diving backhand pickup.
Fedde allowed three runs and four hits in five innings.
Dominic Smith added an RBI single off Austin Voth in the seventh.
DeGrom’s opposite-field double in the fifth against Fedde (1-2) put the Mets ahead 1-0 and gave him a five-game hitting streak dating to 2019.
DeGrom, the first Mets pitcher not to start ninth in the batting order since he was in the 8-hole on Sept. 26, 2018, singled in the eighth and is 6 for 11 (.545) at the plate this season — his 72 career hits match his wins total.
With two off days next week, the Mets optioned No. 5 starter Joey Lucchesi to their alternate training site and recalled LHP Stephen Tarpley.
Washington RHP Max Scherzer will start Tuesday against the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Florida, as the Nationals temporarily go with a four-man rotation.
Nationals manager Dave Martinez choked up and fought back tears near the end of what had been a routine pregame availability.
“I want to just go out there and honestly just give my condolences to all the people that lost family members and friends throughout this pandemic,” he said, putting a hand over his heart. “I went down — I’m riding the bus and I saw a big cemetery that had family, and to see all those stones is something else.”
Nationals: LHP Jon Lester (recovering from COVID-19) is scheduled to throw six innings and up to 90 pitches in a simulated game Sunday, and the Nationals will decide Monday whether he is ready to be activated for his Washington debut.
Mets: RHP Carlos Carrasco (elbow soreness) is scheduled for a rehab outing Saturday at Port St. Lucie, Florida. … RHP Seth Lugo (elbow surgery Feb. 16) has thrown off a mound but has not faced hitters. He is expected back next month.
The Mets battle the Nationals again Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. Both games can be seen on New York’s Very Own PIX11.