New York Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom tied Nolan Ryan's major league record for most strikeouts through a pitcher's first five starts of a season, finishing Wednesday night's start with nine strikeouts over six innings to run his five-game total to 59. But deGrom did so in a losing cause, as New York fell 1-0 to the Boston Red Sox at Citi Field.
It was deGrom's 33rd career start, and third in 2021, in which he allowed one run or fewer and failed to pick up the win, most in the majors since he made his debut in 2014. Julio Teheran has the second-most such starts over that time frame with 25.
"I try not to think too much about it," deGrom said. "Like I said, I'm more disappointed that I wasn't able to make pitches there in the second inning. I was trying to battle through but just left some balls over the middle of the plate that got hit. So, that comes down to me controlling what I can control and I didn't do a good job of that in that second inning."
DeGrom has made 81 career starts of six-plus innings in which he has allowed no more than one run, but only 48 of those resulted in wins (59%). The MLB average win rate over the past five seasons when pitching at least six innings with one or no runs is 69%.
"For him to only go six, quote-unquote, is a moral victory for our guys," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said about deGrom. "At the end, one run was enough."
DeGrom, indeed, was irked by that second inning, when he allowed the game's only run after doubles by Xander Bogaerts and Christian Vazquez.
"Kind of displeased with my mechanics," deGrom said. "Last start it felt really good. This one felt like I was flying open. Everything seemed to be flat. But you know, just wasn't able to make pitches when I needed to."
While the ace is trying not to think about the offensive support, his teammates -- disappointed in themselves -- certainly are.
"Really there's no excuse," Mets catcher James McCann said. "We have to find a way, especially in a game like tonight. ... You've got to find a way to win those games."
"Everybody's out there giving 100 percent. Nobody wants to get out," deGrom said. "Those guys try to put together the best at-bats; I try to throw the ball to the spot for that pitch. They're competing. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the other team, and they did a nice job keeping our guys off balance."
After striking out 14, 14 and 15 batters in his previous three starts, deGrom was a little less dominant Wednesday night. Opposing starter Nick Pivetta even battled him for a 10-pitch at-bat, the most pitches deGrom has thrown to a pitcher and the most he has thrown to a batter this season. Still, deGrom has fanned 48.0% of the batters he has faced this season.
DeGrom finished April with a 0.51 ERA. It's the 279th instance since earned runs became an official statistic in 1913 in which a pitcher had at least 55 strikeouts in one month, but deGrom's ERA is the lowest of the 279, beating Pedro Martinez's 0.64 ERA from July 2002.
In 1978, Ryan began his season with the California Angels with strikeout totals of 13, 12, 8, 15 and 11, finishing with 59 over 41 innings. Ryan also walked 25 batters, whereas deGrom walked four.
Ryan also faced some hard-luck run support. He had a 1.98 ERA in his five starts but won just one game, as he had a six-inning outing and a 10-inning outing in which he allowed no runs but received a no-decision.
The all-time record for strikeouts over any five-game stretch is Martinez's 72 in late 1999, when he recorded totals of 15, 11, 15, 17 and 14. Those five starts were bookended by games of 11 and then 12 and 12, giving Martinez a remarkable eight-game stretch of 107 K's over 62 innings.