DeGrom’s 2nd half stirs award talk

Reign­ing NL Cy Young win­ner has put him­self in hunt again

The Morning Call - - VARSITY - By Laura Al­banese

There is no short­age of words to de­scribe Ja­cob deGrom, and Mickey Call­away had a few Mon­day.

Tremen­dous was one, dom­i­nant an­other. Call­away also trot­ted out the high­est form of praise — com­par­ing deGrom to him­self.

“Vin­tage Jake,” he said.

All good words, but here are a few more: un­der­dog, dark horse and prob­a­bly a few other scrappy an­i­mals too. And though those things aren’t gen­er­ally associated with Cy Young Award win­ners, it’s not a bad es­ti­ma­tion of what deGrom is trying to pull off down the stretch this sea­son.

Af­ter a rocky start to the year, deGrom’s sec­ond-half resurgence has put him back in the Cy Young pic­ture. For a race that was once dom­i­nated by the likes of Hyun-Jin Ryu and Max Scherzer, it’s deGrom’s steely and con­sis­tent sec­ond-half per­for­mances that have odd­s­mak­ers changing up their eval­u­a­tions.

Sure, he’s far from the fa­vorite — Ryu leads the Na­tional League with a 2.45 ERA, but both Ryu and Scherzer have had stints on the in­jured list that have slowed their cam­paigns.

Mean­while, deGrom pitched an­other gem Mon­day: one earned run over seven in­nings with three hits, a walk and 11 strike­outs. His ERA dropped to 2.70, which in­cludes a nearly ridicu­lous 2.20 ERA since May 22, the best such mark in base­ball. He has 231 strike­outs this year too, which leapfrogge­d Stephen Stras­burg for most in the NL.

DeGrom (9-8) of­fi­cially has pitched him­self back into the con­ver­sa­tion — some­thing of a mar­vel con­sid­er­ing he had a 4.85 ERA at the end of April.

“I said in spring that’s al­ways a goal,” deGrom said of a sec­ond straight Cy Young. “You have goals as a team, and you set per­sonal goals as well. I go up there and try to put up ze­roes and give these guys a chance to win.”

Asked to com­pare the deGrom of 2018 to that of 2019, Call­away wouldn’t quite bite. Last year, Call­away said, was “just un­be­liev­able,” but the makeup is the same, which means a player who re­mains res­o­lute de­spite less than fa­vor­able odds. That in­cludes rough starts and stag­nant run sup­port.

“You’ve got to give Jake a lot of credit,” Call­away said. “He didn’t let [the tough open­ing month] rat­tle him, and he could have. But this guy doesn’t let any­thing rat­tle him.

“At times it’s hard to score runs for him and he doesn’t let it bother his per­for­mance. He knows he can con­trol one thing and that’s Ja­cob deGrom. He knows he’s re­ally good and it doesn’t take any­body else. He knows deep down in­side who he is and he’s go­ing to go out and show it ev­ery day.”

And the com­pet­i­tive­ness never does quite wa­ver for deGrom, who al­lowed only one run Mon­day — a homer to his old buddy, Wilmer Flores. He grum­bled that if he was go­ing to give a homer up to any­one, it might as well have been Flo.

“That’s a lit­tle bit an­noy­ing,” deGrom said while smil­ing.

And while he makes no se­cret of want­ing to re­peat, it’s not quite the same fo­cus it was last year, when the Cy Young sto­ry­line was the only thing keep­ing a sad Mets sea­son afloat. This team has a (very) out­side chance at a wild-card berth, and deGrom sure likes to win.

“I think hav­ing won one [award] it’s still the goal,” he said. “But the big­ger pic­ture is this team trying to go to play­offs and get­ting to the World Se­ries.”

But a lit­tle ex­tra hard­ware to go with it wouldn’t hurt.

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