by Paul West
In a magical season for the New York Mets, one of the biggest storylines has been the emergence of their new de-facto ace, Jacob deGrom. The converted shortstop and ninth-round draft pick had already impressed the baseball world by winning the National League Rookie of the Year award in 2014–but this year, he’s continued to outdo himself. In his sophomore season he put together a stat line that in other years would have made him a Cy Young candidate: a 2.54 ERA, a .98 WHIP and 205 strikeouts in 191 innings. In his first All-Star Game, he made history as the first pitcher to strike out the side in an All-Star Game in ten pitches. Through it all, he’s projected an air of easygoing calm that belies the competitive fire he shows on the mound. He even looks like a position player at the plate, and runs like a centerfielder on the bases.
Then he made his postseason debut.
On the road at Dodger Stadium, deGrom faced off against Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw is a three-time Cy Young Award winner who had just finished one of the best pitching seasons ever recorded. He proceeded to both out-duel and out-last Kershaw, going a full seven innings to Kershaw’s six and two-thirds. DeGrom struck out thirteen batters and gave up five hits, two of which were grossly misplayed by left fielder Michael Cuddyer. His only walk was an intentional walk to get to Kershaw with two outs. The two aces combined for 24 strikeouts, tying the postseason record for combined strikeouts by opposing starters. They were the first opposing starters to each strike out 11 or more in the same game. On a night when a historically good pitcher in history recorded an incredible postseason start, Jacob deGrom both outdid him and outlasted him. He reversed home-field advantage almost singlehandedly, and his legend continues to grow.
Whatever the final outcome of this Mets postseason, one thing’s for sure: a star has been born in Citi Field.