The rookie right-hander would only strike out those first four hitters, but went on to fire four perfect innings, allowed two runs and three hits over six innings and led the Mets to a 10-2 win and a sweep of the weekend series, the first series sweep at Turner Field in seven years (Aug. 31-Sept. 2, 2007). It also clinched the season series in Atlanta (5-4) and overall (10-9) and pulled them to within a half-game of the Braves for second place in the NL East.
So that left one question surrounding deGrom -- no, not is he National League Rookie of the Year. That one's already settled in Collins' mind. It's either deGrom or teammate Jeurys Familia, he of the 73 appearances (second in the NL) and 2.30 ERA (which would be second in the NL).
The question remaining was: "Was this deGrom's final start or penultimate start?"
"We'll regroup here in a couple of days and decide," said Collins. "He's real close to where we wanted him to get anyway on the season. We were talking 180 to 185 innings was going to be max anyway. But he and I have talked and he wants to go out there."
"I want to make another one," said deGrom, who has now thrown 178 innings between the Majors and Minors this season. "I told him I'd like to make the next one. Why not? I would like to get to the 185 so there's no limit next year and I can get to the 200 mark with no problem."
If Sunday was his final start, he made a nice final impression. deGrom, struck out 10, for his fourth career double-digit strikeout game and second in a row, retiring the first 12 Braves, striking out eight of them.
"He was throwing the ball awesome and it seemed like he was just going to keep getting outs," said catcher Anthony Recker, who had three hits, one short of his season high, and three RBIs, matching his season best. "For me, it was just my job not to screw it up."
After the fourth inning came some rough patches, as deGrom allowed his only two runs of the day -- only one of them earned -- in the fifth and had runners at first and second with one out in the sixth.
"I started leaving a couple of pitches up and then kind of lost my command a little bit," said deGrom of the fifth. "I walked some guys. I think I lost a little bit of control."
But he was able to reach back for a little extra when he needed to, limiting the damage in the fifth by getting a pair of strikeouts then inducing an inning-ending double play in the sixth.
"I was just trying to stay within myself early on and then if I needed to, try to throw it by somebody with a little more on it," said deGrom, who went six innings for the 12th straight start and in typical fashion, pounded the strike zone, firing 63 strikes out of 100 pitches. "I was actually trying to do that consciously. That was the game plan."
He even helped himself offensively in the sixth after giving up his two runs, getting one of the runs back by laying down a perfect squeeze bunt, his second RBI of the season. deGrom reached thanks to an error on the play, loading the bases with one out, but the Mets left the bases full as Matt den Dekker struck out and Wilmer Flores popped out. The Mets sealed the deal getting a run in the eighth and three more in the ninth.
As was the case Saturday, New York littered the basepaths, this time rocking four Atlanta pitchers for 10 runs and 14 hits. They knocked around starter Ervin Santana, for five runs on six hits in five innings. It was the second straight time the Mets got to him, scoring nine earned runs in 12 innings in those starts. They'd lost twice to him in a 10-day span back in April, managing just one run in 15 innings.
"There were quality at-bats up and down the lineup," said Daniel Murphy. "[Lucas] Duda swung the bat well, 'Reck' had a big day off the bench, [den Dekker], [Kirk Nieuwenhuis], just good AB's up and down the lineup and with that we were able to put up some crooked numbers."
They put up those crooked numbers despite going 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position, making them 4-for-25 over the last two days. But on Sunday the Mets found other ways to score. They had a pair of sacrifice flies, a run-scoring groundout, and they took advantage of Atlanta generosity, cashing in a passed ball and an errant pickoff throw.
"That's what good teams do," said Duda, who also had three hits. "We're not a team that can always hit the ball out of the ball park. We're a team that has to move the runners, get them in from third. We did that today."
The Mets are off to Washington, D.C., where they'll open a three-game set with the Nationals on Tuesday. It should be a fun trip, as the rookies were given costumes to wear on the trip.
Included was deGrom, who was donning a Wonder Woman halter and matching short shorts.
Call it another reason he'll never forget Sept. 21, 2014. He's hoping to give the Mets and their fans one more unforgettable start in about five days.