And with nine more strikeouts on Wednesday, deGrom tied Nolan Ryan’s record of 59 strikeouts in the first five appearances of a season.
DeGrom’s starts have long attracted attention, but this year they have been elevated to appointment viewing, just as it was when Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, Pedro Martinez and even Matt Harvey pitched at home. The stands were often full and the buzz palpable when those aces were in their primes.
This year, seating capacity is limited at Citi Field because of the coronavirus pandemic, but 8,000 fans are still capable of making a fuss when deGrom is at his peak, the way he was against Washington. On Wednesday, they sensed he was not at that same level, especially when he required 10 pitches to put away Nick Pivetta, the opposing starting pitcher, who fouled off six straight pitches before striking out in the third.
That is not supposed to happen against deGrom. Nor do teams hit three hard doubles off him when he is throwing his best stuff. But he has allowed only two earned runs all year, and lost both of those games, prompting more questions about the lack of run support from the sputtering Mets batters.
“I try not to think too much about it,” deGrom said. “I’m more disappointed I wasn’t able to make pitches in the second inning.”
Pitchers who have been booed mercilessly off mounds after getting pummeled have been far less critical of themselves than deGrom was Wednesday night. He said his mechanics were off, so he had been unable to locate his fastball, especially down in the strike zone. He said that had allowed a good-hitting team like the Red Sox to take advantage.
But really, they only took advantage once. Xander Bogaerts led off the second inning with a double to the wall in left field, and one out later, Christian Vazquez doubled to right, scoring Bogaerts. That was it. The only other hit deGrom surrendered was a double down the right-field line by Rafael Devers with two outs in the fourth inning, and he then struck out Vazquez.