The Mets listened to — then rejected — Syndergaard’s plea for his favorite catcher. The result wasn’t pretty: Forced to work with Ramos again, he was charged with four runs in five innings, including a three-run home run to the rookie Gavin Lux on a 3-2 curveball in the fourth inning that spun without downward break. It was Syndergaard’s worst pitch in an otherwise forgettable night.
That put deGrom in a make-or-break predicament the next night against Hyun-Jin Ryu, who has surpassed Kershaw as the Dodgers’ ace and was the N.L.’s starting pitcher in the All-Star Game. And just as the Mets had hoped, deGrom rose to the occasion: He matched Ryu inning for inning, zero for zero, averaging 100.2 miles per hour with his two-seam fastball, 93.7 m.p.h. with his slider and, most devastatingly, clocking his changeup at 92 m.p.h.
The Dodgers said it was deGrom’s ability to disguise the changeup that made it impossible to hit. He threw it 12 times in the seventh inning alone; not once were the Dodgers able to square up on it.
“It looks like a fastball except that it’s not,” Bellinger said, shaking his head. “I mean, there’s not much you can do against stuff like that except give it your best shot. Obviously, the guy is a great pitcher; all you can do is try to compete.”
DeGrom says his changeup has always been his second-best pitch, set up by the blistering velocity of his fastball. Even on nights when the changeup feels out of sync, deGrom says: “I try to show it to hitters, just to keep it in the back of their minds. Sooner or later it comes around.”
Disarming hitters with those three weapons — fastball, slider, changeup — is precisely how Pedro Martinez dominated in the late 1990s. And like the Red Sox ace, deGrom has the advantage of long arms, “and a whip-like action in his delivery,” Manager Mickey Callaway said.
Martinez also won three Cy Young Awards on his way to the Hall of Fame. DeGrom wouldn’t mind following in those footsteps, too.