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After year-plus absence, Mets’ Jacob deGrom returns to face Nats

Sportsnaut
Jul 29, 2022; Miami, Florida, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) watches from inside the dugout during the game against the Miami Marlins at loanDepot Park. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Jacob deGrom makes his long-awaited 2022 debut when the New York Mets visit the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night, about an hour after the trade deadline.

Whether the two-time Cy Young Award winner will face Nationals slugger Juan Soto is unknown as the outfielder remains among the biggest potential prizes before the deadline. His teammate Josh Bell also could be a former National before the first pitch.

Whatever else the Mets do on Tuesday, they are adding an ace for the stretch run. deGrom last pitched in a major league game on July 21, 2021. In 15 starts last season, he went 7-2 with a 1.08 ERA.

The right-hander missed the second half of the 2021 season with right forearm tightness and has missed all of 2022 to this point with a stress reaction in his right scapula. He made four rehab starts with Class A St. Lucie and Triple-A Syracuse, posting a 2.84 ERA and striking out 21 in 12 2/3 innings.

“Nerves haven’t set in yet,” deGrom said Sunday. “But I am sure I will be pretty nervous and I have a feeling it’s going to feel like my debut, so I am definitely excited.”

deGrom, the lone remaining rotation member from the Mets’ 2015 National League championship team, will join a club that has won seven straight and leads the NL East by 3 1/2 games.

“Personal goals are personal goals, but this is a team game and the ultimate goal is to win the World Series,” deGrom said. “Watching these guys go out there and compete has been fun, but it’s a lot more fun to go out there and compete with them.”

deGrom is 9-4 with a 2.44 ERA in 21 career starts against Washington.

If Soto has played his final game for the Nationals, he went out on a high note. The 23-year-old right fielder homered, walked three times, scored twice and stole a base on Monday in Washington’s 7-3 loss to New York. He realized it might have been his farewell.

“For me, I feel good where I’m at,” Soto said postgame. “I understand it’s a business, and they need to do whatever they need to do.”

The Nationals Park fans gave Soto a warm ovation after he walked in the eighth inning in what may have been his final Nationals plate appearance.

“It means a lot,” Soto said of the crowd reaction. “It kind of feels weird, too, because nothing’s happened yet. We’re just still waiting.”

Soto has reached base safely in 35 of his past 36 games, batting .300 with five doubles, one triple, eight homers, 18 RBIs, 39 walks and 26 runs during that stretch.

While Soto is under team control for two more seasons, Bell, who turns 30 on Aug. 14, will be a free agent after this season. He is hitting .301 with 14 homers and 57 RBIs, and he is 16-for-50 (.320) with two homers and 10 RBIs over his past 14 games.

The Mets got a season-high four hits from Brandon Nimmo in the Monday night win, and Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso homered. Alonso has 11 career homers in 33 games at Nationals Park.

Former Nationals star Max Scherzer allowed Soto’s homer but pitched 6 2/3 effective innings for the win.

Washington will send right-hander Cory Abbott (0-0, 3.00) to the mound on Tuesday.

Abbott has allowed one run in two innings of a no-decision in his lone career start against New York.

–Field Level Media