It was a dream scenario for the New York Mets' biggest crowd at Citi Field since 2019. There was the energy of a packed house, and ace Jacob deGrom earning the MVP chants that rained down upon him. A lead in the middle innings against the dangerous San Diego Padres.
Then deGrom left the game after six shutout innings, just 80 pitches and a consultation with Mets pitching coach Jeremy Hefner. The team announced that he departed with right flexor tendinitis. The Padres scored two quick runs, and the dream scenario nearly turned into a nightmare.
Well, for everyone but deGrom.
"My level of concern is not too high," deGrom said of his elbow injury following the Mets' 3-2 win. "I'm pretty sure it's going to be something that we can treat and hopefully not miss any time."
DeGrom doesn't plan to seek an MRI or other imaging, and he expects to proceed with his normal routine in preparation for his next start, with a little extra treatment mixed in.
Mets manager Luis Rojas is on board with that plan.
"I'm not concerned either, just because Jake is not," Rojas said. "This is a guy who knows his body really well, knows his arm really well.''
DeGrom said that he had been feeling some tightness around the offending tendon during his preparation for the outing against San Diego. He woke up Friday morning feeling great. And he is confident that a little extra treatment is the only thing standing between him and his next start.
"I felt it this whole week," deGrom said. "It never really got worse. I just think there near the end [of the outing], I started to get a little tired. I don't know if I was out of my delivery. My mechanics felt good tonight, but when I would fly open, I would feel it a little bit. I'm pretty optimistic I'll be out there in five days."
Certainly there was no hint of a problem to be found in deGrom's performance. He struck out 10 batters and allowed only a single off the bat of San Diego's Wil Myers. He lowered his ERA to 0.56 this season.
The Mets led 3-0 when deGrom left the game, in part because of his two-run single off Padres lefty Blake Snell in the fifth. DeGrom has now driven in five runs as a hitter this season. As a pitcher, he has allowed just four earned runs in 64 innings to begin the campaign. He's hitting .400 in 25 at-bats as a batter.
DeGrom's seventh strikeout gave him 100 on the season. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, that is the fewest innings by a starter to reach 100 strikeouts in a single season since the mound moved to its current distance in 1893.
The contest marked the first game for which so many fans were allowed into Citi Field since Sept. 29, 2019, when the Mets beat the Braves 7-6 before 31,523 at the last game of that season. On Friday, 26,637 were on hand to see deGrom, and they sounded like a full house as he rolled through the first few innings amid MVP chants.
"New York Mets fans have been great to me," deGrom said. "Having that many fans here tonight, it was unbelievable. I'm glad to have them back."
DeGrom retired the first 13 Padres hitters before Myers' base hit to the opposite field in the fifth. When he set San Diego down in order in the first, it extended a run of 28 straight first-inning hitters he has retired.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't thinking about [a no-hitter]," deGrom said. "Wil did a good job, battled me, and I left a slider up. But definitely the thought crept into my mind. A no-hitter or perfect game is definitely a goal. Just haven't been able to do it."
After deGrom retired Brian O'Grady on a well-struck fly ball to the warning track to end the sixth, he consulted with Hefner, explained the state of his discomfort, and the decision was made to end his outing.
DeGrom hasn't reached the 90-pitch mark in an outing since April 28. Of course, he hasn't needed that many pitches to post some of the most dominant numbers the game has ever seen from a pitcher.
"From the first pitch to his last pitch, he's special," Rojas said. "This guy's pitches are unbelievable."
The Mets held on to win Friday night despite a two-run homer by San Diego's Jake Cronenworth off reliever Miguel Castro shortly after deGrom left the game. Mets closer Edwin Diaz got Eric Hosmer to pop out with a runner on base to end the game and preserve New York's fourth win in five games.
Still, the best news of the night was that the burgeoning list of amazing deGrom feats has a chance to grow in five days. Here's another item on that list: According to ESPN Stats & Information research, deGrom has allowed no more than one earned run in all 10 of his starts this season. That's the longest streak by any pitcher since Bob Gibson in 1968. That's the rarity of the show deGrom is putting on.
Despite the scare, it appears that the show is likely to go on. It's a show few baseball fans anywhere have seen.
"There is no comparison for Jake," Diaz said through an interpreter. "He's from another planet. What he does on the mound is unbelievable. He's even hitting right now. When you look at what he does every single day, it's perfect.
"Honestly, I think he might be the best player in baseball."