SAN FRANCISCO — It wasn’t that long ago that Jacob deGrom had two uncharacteristic outings. He lasted only four innings in back-to-back starts against the Milwaukee Brewers and the Texas Rangers and was lit up each time. He stood in front of his locker, unable to understand what was going wrong.
It was somewhat confounding for the Mets’ ace, who had been far and away the best pitcher on the staff up to that point. deGrom, much like every other pitcher on that staff, was giving up homers and walking guys at an increased rate. Even when he snapped out of that funk and tossed a complete game against the Chicago Cubs on June 12, he still walked four batters.
But it was that win that started this stretch of dominance. He continued the run with an eight-inning, one-run performance in San Francisco against the Giants on Saturday afternoon. He’s allowed one earned run in each of his last three starts. He walked only two when facing the Nationals and only one AT&T Park.
By adding a second side session in every week, he was able to work on his delivery, throwing more on-line, allowing him to get up over top of the ball and locate it again.
“I think just being able to repeat my delivery, there’s a little more consistency there,” deGrom said. “I was flying before, I would yank the ball, or I guess I call it pushing it. I would yank it to a right-handed batter then throw it up and away to a lefty. So getting back to getting kind of on top of it, closer to where I need to be, has helped me a lot.”
It’s not the first time deGrom has added in a second side session, he’s toyed with double bullpens in the past. With the Mets having used a six-man rotation over the last few weeks — something deGrom said he didn’t like because it changed his schedule — he had some extra time to throw two shorter ‘pens, helping him find his delivery once again.
The reason he decided to throw two? He got some advice from former Atlanta Braves’ great, hall-of-fame pitcher John Smoltz.
“He said he threw two sides for 10 years,” deGrom said. “You’re at like 70 percent, but you get on the mound more and you’re more familiar with your delivery.”
A few years ago, deGrom overheard Smoltz, who is now a commentator for MLB on FOX, discussing it on a broadcast. When things were sliding downhill for deGrom in late May, he decided to reach out.
“I have his his number and I texted him and said, ‘Hey, do you have a minute to talk?'” deGrom said. “We just kind of talked about the idea behind it.”
Walks and home runs have been the downfall of the pitching staff all season, and if deGrom can keep those numbers down, he should be able to keep up this trend of dominance.