Good thing the Braves won’t see Jacob deGrom in the postseason. The mastery they opposed Wednesday may supersede anything they see in October.
deGrom halted the Braves’ six-game winning streak in the final start of what is quite possibly a Cy Young campaign. The Braves fell 3-0 in New York, a bump in their quest for National League home-field advantage.
“This guy is just nails every time I’ve seen him,” said manager Brian Snitker, whose team somehow went 5-1 against the ace. “I don’t know how anybody ever beats him. You don’t like to face him, but you know, when you do face him, you really appreciate what he is and what he can do. It doesn’t seem like he ever labors. He’s one of the best in the game.”
The Braves’ offense mustered just two hits against the righty. He struck out 10, the last of which was the 1,000th of his career and ended the eighth inning. He exited to roaring cheers and a standing ovation after retiring 20 consecutive Braves.
For a moment, Citi Field had what almost felt like a postseason atmosphere. Maybe that’s a good thing for the Braves, who will experience that in its entirety next week.
“He’s really good, but tonight - I almost want to watch the game on TV later,” Braves catcher Tyler Flowers said of deGrom. “I know I didn’t get anything to hit. Most of the other guys would say the same thing. It’s hard to be upset when a guy paints you three times in three different at-bats.”
Sean Newcomb took the mound for the first time in 10 days for the Braves, hoping to distance himself from a string of uninspiring outings. He did so despite four walks, tossing five scoreless innings against an inert Mets lineup.
“Just coming in attacking like I usually do when I’m doing well,” Newcomb said. “Just trying to get ahead of hitters and make them uncomfortable.”
Newcomb struck out eight, allowing one hit and pitching around his bases on balls. He retired the first eight hitters before issuing a two-out walk to Brandon Nimmo. Jeff McNeil doubled to open the fourth, but Newcomb worked his way out of it, leaving him and Michael Conforto (who walked) stranded.
The lefty walked a pair in the fifth, including deGrom. He struck out Amed Rosario and coaxed a flyout from McNeil to end his night. He wasn’t as sharp as he probably wanted, but it was among his better outings since his near no-hitter July 29.
“I thought he was very aggressive with his fastball,” Snitker said. “On the attack. He was very good.”
Newcomb has made nine starts since, only three of which he’s allowed fewer than three runs. Newcomb’s taken a step forward this year, and his late demise has been somewhat overstated. It’s difficult to envision him being part of the initial postseason rotation, but Snitker indicated he’s still in those considerations.
“I haven’t put any thought toward that,” Newcomb said. “It’s not really up to me. All I can do is go out there and pitch. Whatever happens, happens.”
The Braves’ rotation will depend on matchups, but Newcomb could emerge from the bullpen ready in the event a starter is chased early and/or the team needs innings eaten.
Wednesday was Newcomb’s last start of the regular season. The 25-year-old finished with a 3.91 ERA, striking out 159 and walking 80 over 163-1/3 innings.
“Just making every start this year was big,” Newcomb said, when asked to assess his season. “Staying healthy. That was my goal coming in. I played the whole year and made all my starts. We got that done and now we have more important baseball ahead.”
With the series even 1-1, Julio Teheran starts for the Braves Thursday. It will be his last outing of the regular season as he makes his own case for a slot in the postseason rotation.
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