Jacob DeGrom to get MRI for side issue after Mets win 5th straight

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NEW YORK — Winners of five straight, the New York Mets have a big test brewing:

Jacob deGrom is getting an MRI.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner was pulled after five innings with right side tightness in his return from an injury to a similar area, but the bullpen closed out a four-hitter as New York beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 4-2 Sunday.

DeGrom (3-2) was perfect through four innings but labored in the fifth, then called for trainer Brian Chicklo after throwing two warm-up pitches ahead of the sixth. DeGrom exited and went straight to the clubhouse.

“No pain whatsoever, just tightness,” manager Luis Rojas said. “That’s what he told our trainer.”

The right-hander was coming off a 10-day layoff, skipping his previous turn in the rotation because of a right lat issue. Rojas said the side tightness – centered around the lower-right side of his back – seems to be a different issue.

Prior to Sunday, deGrom had a 0.51 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 35 overpowering innings.

New York expected to have results of the MRI by Sunday night.

“I want to sit and wait and see what it is, and then we can plan as a group what’s next,” Rojas said.

The 32-year-old deGrom threw 68 pitches over five innings, allowing a run with six strikeouts, a hit and three walks.

DeGrom walked three during a 29-pitch fifth inning, just the second time in his career he’s done that. His previous three-walk inning was May 13, 2018, at Philadelphia. He was pulled after one inning in that game, his first back from the injured list.

Right-hander Miguel Castro relieved deGrom with New York ahead 2-1. He hit a batter and walked another before completing a scoreless inning.

Jacob Barnes worked a perfect seventh before allowing Asdrubal Cabrera‘s solo homer in the eighth, and Edwin Diaz got five outs for his fifth save.

It was Diaz’s second career five-out save and first with the Mets of more than three. He stranded Nick Ahmed in the ninth after catcher James McCann, third baseman Jonathan Villar and Diaz let Ahmed’s popup fall between them for a single.

Michael Conforto had two hits, an RBI and a superb catch against the right-field wall, and New York improved to 16-13 – again achieving its season best at three games over .500.

The Mets matched their longest winning streak since August 2019. They also beat the Diamondbacks for the 10th straight time at Citi Field.

Arizona has lost six in a row overall and totaled just eight runs during this three-game sweep in Queens. Rookie right-hander Riley Smith (1-2) allowed two runs, four hits and a walk in four innings, striking out one.

“We are at a very critical point right now where we have to find a way, and we will,” said frustrated manager Torey Lovullo, who was ejected in the seventh inning. “We put ourselves in a very good position when we do the little things the right way. Those will be my messages to the players over the coming days.”

DeGrom played catch several times last week after being scratched Tuesday and felt confident he was ready to return.

He reached 100 mph twice in the first inning but didn’t look entirely comfortable, shaking out his arm behind the mound at one point. Still, he opened with four perfect innings for the first time since retiring 15 straight to start against San Diego on June 1, 2015, per MLB.com.

His rocky fifth began with a free pass to David Peralta, and Stephen Vogt followed with a long double.

Center fielder Kevin Pillar and Conforto both dived for Vogt’s drive on the warning track but came up short. Pillar’s face clipped Conforto’s left cleat on the play, and Pillar appeared to be bleeding on the side of his head while he was checked by a trainer. He remained in the game.

DeGrom walked Eduardo Escobar to load the bases with no outs and fell behind Ahmed before inducing a 4-3 double play that cut New York’s lead to 2-1. He walked Daulton Varsho, then struck out pinch-hitter Christian Walker.

The Mets do-it-all ace also helped build the lead. DeGrom placed a perfect bunt single down the third-base line during a two-run third inning, his seventh hit in six games. The former college shortstop is batting .467 this season.

DeGrom scored on Conforto’s two-out single, and Francisco Lindor also lofted an RBI sacrifice fly in the inning.

Rojas wasn’t sure when deGrom developed the side tightness, especially since he was so active throughout the game between the 29-pitch inning and running the bases. DeGrom didn’t mention the discomfort until the sixth inning.

“He was down,” Rojas said. “He wanted to pitch through it. He was asking us, but he did the right thing.”

The Mets got their third run on pinch-hitter Patrick Mazeika‘s bases-loaded walk against J.B. Bukauskas as light rain began in the sixth. Dominic Smith added an RBI single in the seventh.

SWEET 16

Barnes survived a 16-pitch at-bat against Pavin Smith in the eighth inning, the longest plate appearance in the majors this season. Smith fouled 11 pitches before striking out looking at a fastball.

TOSSED

Escobar was ejected by plate umpire Manny Gonzalez after striking out swinging in the seventh. Lovullo came out to argue and was also booted by Gonzalez.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Diamondbacks: OF Ketel Marte (right hamstring) is expected to workout at Chase Field on Monday or Tuesday to determine next steps in his recovery. He’s been running and taking batting practice and could begin a rehab assignment soon.

Mets: RHP Drew Smith was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse, and RHP Trevor Hildenberger was optioned.

UP NEXT

Diamondbacks: Arizona opens a home series Monday against Miami with RHP Luke Weaver (1-3, 6.07) on the hill. The Marlins hadn’t announced a starter.

Mets: Get Monday off before hosting Baltimore to open a two-game series. New York RHP Marcus Stroman (3-3, 2.12) faces Orioles LHP John Means (4-0, 1.37), who will be pitching on five days’ rest following his no-hitter against Seattle last week.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.