Game Two of the Subway Series at Yankee Stadium provides a compelling pitching matchup in Sonny Gray versus Jacob deGrom.
The July 31 non-waiver trade deadline came and went.
Already with two starts for New York, Gray will be making his first appearance on the mound at Yankee Stadium, where he made one previous start with the Oakland Athletics in 2015, a season in which he finished third in Cy Young voting and earned an All-Star nod.
In that appearance, Gray tossed seven innings while managing five strikeouts, surrendering three runs, six hits, and three walks, factoring in a no-decision (the A’s went on to win that game 4-3).
In Gray’s time in New York, the righty has spun two quality starts, yielding seven walks and eight hits, striking out twelve in as many innings.
In his first start, Gray was tasked with facing Cy Young hopeful Corey Kluber on the road in Cleveland. He left the mound after the first down 2-0, thanks in part to two fielding errors (from Chase Headley and Tyler Wade) and a throwing miscue from Clint Frazier. Gray issued three walks, striking out six. The Yankees would only plate one run in an eventual 5-1 loss.
The NYY sabotaged Sonny Gray's first start with their defense, but in the ninth inning tonight, 2 great plays to hold a 2-1 lead; 2 outs.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) August 6, 2017
In his second start, Gray was victimized on two accounts: zero run support and his own poor defense (an attempt to throw out Ezequiel Carrera at second sailed into the outfield—Carrera would later score on a fielder’s choice). The Yankees would lose 4-0 while command remained an issue for Gray: he would issue four more free passes.
Despite being tagged with two losses and his litany of walks, Gray kept the ball in the park, managing an FIP of 2.88 and an ERA+ of 158. However, scoring one run in two starts pins the losses far more on the Yankee lineup than on Gray.
Good one on tap tonight:
deGrom's last 11 GS: 9-2, 1.82 ERA, .189 BAA, 9.64 K/9
Gray's last 8 GS: 4-4, 1.75 ERA, .168 BAA, 8.41 K/9
— ChristianKouroupakis (@TheRealCkESNY) August 15, 2017
In facing Jacob deGrom, in his first Yankee Stadium start in pinstripes, Gray is again mounted with an arduous task as the Yankees try to keep pace with the Boston Red Sox in the AL East and stay ahead of the many teams on their heels for the Wild Card, as an astounding eight clubs stand within a mere four games of the second spot (the Angels, Twins, Royals, Orioles, Mariners, Rays, Rangers, and Jays).
Most games allowing 1 run or fewer by starting pitcher in first 99 starts, since 1913
Jacob deGrom: 44
Dwight Gooden: 43
Clayton Kershaw: 40
— New York Mets Stats (@NYMStats) August 11, 2017
Heading into 2017, hopes ran high for the Mets in their chase for a World Series, with Yoenis Cespedes re-upping his contract in the offseason, Neil Walker accepting the team‘s qualifying offer, Lucas Duda entering the season healthy, Jay Bruce submitting a promising September in 2016 in their push for an eventual Wild Card (a .263/.333/.513 triple-slash line with 6 homers and 13 RBI), and Michael Conforto emerging as a hot bat earlier this season. No matter where they were positioned in the standings, top prospects Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith were certain to join the club down the stretch.
Now 17 games behind the Nationals for the NL East division lead and 12 games behind the second Wild Card, the Mets have cast off Walker, Duda, Bruce, and Addison Reed, with Curtis Granderson likely to join them out of town before August is out.
At the very least, the poor play ultimately inspired Sandy Anderson to promote Rosario and Smith.
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Consequently, the New York Mets’ falling out of contention cannot be credited to their lineup (as SNY‘s Gary Cohen notes, the team’s average OPS was .761 heading into last night’s game, 13 points behind the Yankees—removing pitchers from that total, the Mets’ OPS mark rises to .781, according to Baseball Reference). Rather, decimating injures have ravaged the starting rotation.
Ace Noah Syndergaard (out since April with a torn lat muscle), Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Robert Gsellman, Zack Wheeler, and Seth Lugo have all spent time on the disabled list, stripping the Metropolitans of any legitimate shot at playoff contention.
The only constant for the Mets beside Conforto, an All-Star outfielder hitting .282 with 26 homers, 64 RBI, and a .958 OPS, whose 12 home runs after the All-Star break are second in the majors to Giancarlo Stanton‘s 18, is Jacob deGrom, an ace (not merely by default) who has been the mark of durability and consistency for the Mets since he joined the rotation in 2014, the year he took home the NL Rookie of the Year award.
In a season that is certain to garner him votes for the NL Cy Young, deGrom is fifth in the NL in WAR for pitchers (4.0), eighth in ERA (3.21), third in wins (13), sixth in WHIP (1.14), eighth in hits per 9 IP (7.55), fourth in K/ 9 IP (10.64), second in strikeouts (179), and tenth in ERA+ (132). A workhorse at the top of the rotation (his 151 1/3 innings pitched are fifth most in the National League), deGrom goes for his fourteenth victory tonight in a bout for bragging rights in New York, one that started 20 years ago, when interleague play was first instituted in the majors by then-commissioner Bud Selig.
Tonight’s #Mets starter Jacob deGrom is 9-2 with a 1.82 ERA in his last 11GS with 85 Ks over those 79.1 IP.
— David Lennon (@DPLennon) August 15, 2017
deGrom will not make it easy for Sonny Gray to earn his first victory in pinstripes, especially given the Yankees well-noted struggles since the All-Star break. Despite the Bombers’ three home runs last night, each was a solo shot off spot starter Rafael Montero (a pitcher with a career 5.47 ERA who has only won two games in 47 appearances and 22 starts with the Mets) and two horrific to mediocre relievers in Hansel Robles (4.71 ERA in 2017) and Erik Goeddel (3.93 ERA). Neither of them comes close to deGrom’s ability, stuff, or production, which could prove disastrous for the Yankees heading into tonight.
— Steiner Sports Store (@SteinerStoreNY) August 15, 2017
Perhaps Gray can look to the emergence of Gary Sanchez (hitting .409 with a 1.325 OPS, 3 homers, and 5 RBI in his last six games, according to Baseball Reference), the consistency of Didi Gregorius (sporting a .339 average and .948 OPS in the season’s second half, according to Baseball Reference), and the bat of Aaron Judge, who is desperate to bust out of his slump after hitting his AL-leading 36th homer last night, in his pursuit of that first Yankee victory.
No matter the outcome, Game 2 of the Subway Series should prove electrifying with deGrom and Gray working from the bump.