New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom throws during the second inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)
NEW YORK (AP) — Jacob deGrom struck out 12 and carried a perfect game into the sixth inning of his second start all season, pitching the New York Mets past the Atlanta Braves 5-2 on Sunday for their 12th victory in 14 games.
Pete Alonso drove in two runs and the first-place Mets finished with 19 strikeouts — including three straight from closer Edwin Díaz to end a combined two-hitter. They took four of five from Atlanta in their NL East showdown, extending their division lead to 6 1/2 games over the defending World Series champions.
“It was kind of emotional walking out there. I haven’t taken this mound in over a year,” deGrom said. “I had to take a second and kind of get myself together.”
Pitching at home for the first time in 13 months, a dominant deGrom (1-0) retired his first 17 batters — 12 on strikeouts — before walking No. 9 hitter Ehire Adrianza with two outs in the sixth. That ended the longest perfect-game bid of deGrom’s career.
Dansby Swanson followed with a two-run homer on the 76th and final pitch from deGrom, making it 5-2.
“He was really good,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I’m like, good God, there’s nothing wrong with him.”
The two-time Cy Young Award winner missed the final three months last season with right forearm tightness and a sprained elbow, then was shut down late in spring training because of a stress reaction in his right scapula. He finally returned Tuesday at Washington, throwing five innings of one-run ball in a rare Mets loss lately.
“It’s a really cool thing that we have going,” deGrom said. “The goal is to keep it going.”
New York fans had to wait a little longer than they planned to see deGrom go to work as the start of the game was delayed 20 minutes by rain. Once play began, however, deGrom didn’t disappoint the Citi Field crowd of 37,717.
A standing ovation greeted the 34-year-old ace before he stepped onto the mound and his first pitch was a 99 mph fastball that Swanson lofted into right field for an out. The right-hander then struck out Matt Olson on four pitches, each of which was 100 mph or faster.
“That was fun,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “(DeGrom) was at the top of his game.”
Making his 200th major league start, deGrom finished with the most strikeouts by a Mets pitcher this season. With shadows creeping over the infield during a late-afternoon start, the Braves swung and missed at each of his first 18 sliders.
After getting swept in Saturday’s split doubleheader, Atlanta has lost three straight for the first time all year. The previous team to go that long into a season without a three-game skid was the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who set the major league mark by not losing three in a row until a four-game slide from games Nos. 147-150, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
While deGrom was silencing the Atlanta bats, the Mets scored four times against rookie Spencer Strider (6-4) in the third.
Brandon Nimmo led off with an infield single and moved to third on Francisco Lindor’s single to center. Alonso delivered a two-run double off the third-base bag. Daniel Vogelbach walked and both burly sluggers chugged home on Mark Canha’s double to left-center.
“It’s easy to have fun when we’re playing because it’s an incredible environment,” Alonso said.
Strider needed 79 pitches to complete 2 2/3 innings in the shortest start of his career.
“A lot of weird hits,” Strider said. “They seem to be having a lot of luck right now offensively. That’s great. It’s August. (We’ll) see what things are like in October.”
New York added another run in the fifth when Jeff McNeil scampered home on a wild pitch.
Joely Rodríguez struck out a career-high four over a season-high 2 1/3 innings in relief of deGrom. Díaz fanned all three batters in the ninth for his 26th save, finishing the two-hitter.
For the second straight game, Mets fans taunted the Braves in the ninth inning by performing the tomahawk chop.
New York matched a franchise mark for strikeouts in a nine-inning game. David Cone (1991) and Hall of Famer Tom Seaver (1970) each fanned 19 in a complete game for the Mets. … With his 1,523 career strikeouts, deGrom passed Yu Darvish (1,517) for the most by a major league pitcher through his first 200 games.
Braves: OF Ronald Acuña Jr. was a late scratch from the lineup with lower-body soreness. He flied out as a pinch-hitter in the seventh and remained in the game for the final two innings. … C Travis d’Arnaud (right lower leg) was in a walking boot after Alonso slid into him hard on a play at the plate. X-rays were negative and d’Arnaud is expected to return to the lineup later this week.
Mets: LHP Joey Lucchesi (Tommy John surgery) continues to progress. While there is still no timetable for his return, manager Buck Showalter indicated Lucchesi could be a bullpen option upon his return.
Braves: After an off day, RHP Charlie Morton (5-5, 4.09 ERA) takes the mound Tuesday as Atlanta opens a two-game series in Boston. He’ll be opposed by LHP Rich Hill (4-5, 4.52).
Mets: RHP Chris Bassitt (8-7, 3.61 ERA) starts at home Monday night when New York begins a three-game series against Cincinnati. RHP Justin Dunn makes his season debut for the Reds after being sidelined since June 2021 with a shoulder injury. Dunn grew up on Long Island not far from Citi Field and was a first-round draft pick by the Mets out of Boston College.