By Anthony DiComo and Jenifer Langosch
NEW YORK -- Jacob deGrom's early-season rough patch has officially come to an end.
deGrom's eight shutout innings led the Mets to a 5-0 win over the Cardinals at Citi Field on Thursday afternoon, giving the clubs a four-game series split and boosting the Mets to their fourth win in six games. Though St. Louis starter Jaime Garcia was also sharp in his first outing in 11 months, deGrom was better, striking out 11 Cardinals and holding them to one hit.
"Especially coming off two tough losses the past couple nights, to come out today and put up zeros against them and shut them out, that was nice," Mets catcher Kevin Plawecki said. "That's a good-hitting ballclub. They can swing the bats pretty well. It just shows the kind of stuff Jake had working."
Lucas Duda homered twice and drove in four runs to back deGrom, who did the rest. After giving up a single to the second batter he faced, deGrom ended his day by retiring 23 consecutive batters. With a potential complete game looming, Mets manager Terry Collins replaced deGrom with a pinch-hitter after eight innings and 104 pitches, citing some minor physical ailments that have plagued deGrom in recent weeks.
"To shut down an offense that has been swinging the bat like we have the last couple days, he made his adjustments," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of deGrom. "But he's got good stuff. He didn't just do it with the fastball, but the fastball was pretty overpowering today. He had guys chasing outside of the zone, and the offspeed pitches were keeping them off-balance."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED deGrominant: Sharp from the start, deGrom struck out five of the first six batters he faced and 11 over his first seven innings. No one could touch him after Matt Carpenter singled with one out in the first; deGrom responded by retiring 23 in a row to end his afternoon. Since posting a 5.64 ERA from April 24 through May 11, the National League's reigning Rookie of the Year has delivered consecutive quality starts.
"I think today was the best mechanically that I've been," deGrom said. More >
Tight-rope walking: Making his first start since undergoing thoracic outlet surgery last summer, Garcia allowed just two runs despite walking five and allowing five hits over his seven-inning start. It was the third time in Garcia's career that he had walked five in a game, though only one of those free passes on Thursday came back to sting. Garcia was helped by his defense, which turned four double plays behind him in a 102-pitch outing.
"I felt like I got outs when I needed to get outs, but unfortunately it wasn't good enough," Garcia said. "I have to go out next time and be better." More >
Duda smash: Though John Mayberry Jr. gave the Mets their first run with his seeing-eye single in the fourth inning, Duda provided their loudest bursts of offense with a solo homer in the sixth inning and a three-run shot in the eighth -- both off left-handed pitchers. A year after struggling mightily vs. lefties, Duda is batting .409 against them, in part thanks to a Spring Training conversation he had with former Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez.
"I have confidence in myself, so I feel like it doesn't matter who's out there," Duda said. "If I stick to my game plan, I'm going to have a good shot of helping the team out." More >
Grichuk's golden glove: In addition to tallying five extra-base hits in the series, center fielder Randal Grichuk made a collection of sensational outfield plays, none better than the one Thursday to close the second inning. Grichuk robbed Mayberry with a diving catch and then rifled a throw to first base to double up Michael Cuddyer. Matt Adams was able to take the throw while keeping his toe on the base, giving Grichuk his first outfield assist of the season.
"If there is a play that has a chance to be made, I'm going to try," Grichuk said. "I think those are the plays that outfielders live for -- leaving your feet or plays at the wall with a chance to rob someone." More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
deGrom became the fourth pitcher in franchise history to strike out at least 10 batters with no walks or runs, joining Tom Seaver (July 9, 1969), R.A. Dickey (June 13, 2012) and Matt Harvey (May 7, 2013).
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals: The Cardinals will close out this seven-game road trip with a weekend series against the defending American League-champion Royals. The annual I-70 Series kicks off at Kauffman Stadium on Friday with a 7:10 pm CT scheduled first pitch. Lance Lynn (3-3, 2.96 ERA) will start for the Cardinals opposite Chris Young (3-0, 0.94 ERA)
Mets: Top prospect Noah Syndergaard will continue auditioning for a long-term roster spot when the Mets begin a three-game series Friday in Pittsburgh. With rehabbing starter Dillon Gee due back from the disabled list as soon as next week, Syndergaard could relinquish his rotation spot with a bad outing -- or entrench it with a good one. He'll start opposite Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole in a 7:05 p.m. ET game at PNC Park.