NEW YORK – Jacob deGrom struck out 13 – the most for a Mets pitcher who threw five innings or fewer- but didn’t factor into the decision Sunday when the NL East leaders beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-3 to complete a four-game sweep.
Mets pitchers tied a big league record with 20 strikeouts in a nine-inning game, and New York remained one game ahead of Atlanta. New York can clinch its first playoff berth since 2016 with a win at Milwaukee on Monday night.
Oneil Cruz‘s three-run homer in the sixth chased deGrom and created a tie that remained intact until the Mets scored four in the eighth.
Terrance Gore pinch-ran in place of Tomas Nido, who singled off Robert Stephenson (2-2). With Brandon Nimmo at the plate, Gore stole second after three throws to first by Manny Banuelos, who went to a slide step upon his first pitch to Nimmo, then took third when catcher Jason Delay‘s throw sailed into center.
“I talked to `Nimm’ – if he stays there, bunt him over. If he takes off, pull it back, which is exactly what `Nimm’ did,”‘ Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “When he went to the slide step there instead of the conventional move, Terrance had him.”
Gore scored on Nimmo’s bloop single. The 31-year-old pinch-runner extraordinaire has 43 big league steals and just 79 regular season plate appearances but has won World Series rings with Kansas City (2015), the Los Angeles Dodgers (2020) and Atlanta (2021).
On Sunday, he received the giant sombrero awarded by Mets players to the team’s most valuable player in a win.
“They actually changed the name of it,” Gore said with a grin. “It actually was a hitter’s hat. But now it’s `best offensive player’ hat.”
DeGrom allowed a leadoff double to Cruz then retired the next 15 batters, 13 by strikeout. Sid Fernandez (June 30, 1986) and Oliver Perez (Sept. 12, 2006) each struck out 11 batters in five-inning starts for the Mets.
DeGrom threw 26 pitches in a first that included six changeups, his most pitches in an inning since 29 in the fifth against Arizona on May 9 last year. He needed just 61 pitches from the second through the fifth.
“He’s one of those guys where if he’s on, no one in the world’s going to hit him,” said Ke'Bryan Hayes, who struck out in both of his at-bats against deGrom.
Zack Collins, making his third appearance with the Pirates since being acquired from Toronto, led off the sixth with his first hit for Pittsburgh, Delay singled and Cruz homered just beyond the right-centerfield fence.
“Didn’t make some pitches when I needed to,” deGrom said. “The guys did a good job of putting up some runs for me. Then wasn’t able to go out and keep them where they’re at.”
The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner set a big league record by allowing three earned runs or fewer for the 40th straight start, breaking a tie with Jim Scott (1913-14).
Seth Lugo, Joely Rodriguez and Trevor May combined to limit the Pirates to one hit over three innings. Rodriguez (1-4) struck out a career-high five in two perfect frames and May ended the game against Jack Suwinski with the record-tying strikeout.
The Mets became the ninth team to strike out 20 in a nine-inning game, the first since Houston on July 3.
“Obviously, it starts with Jake,” Showalter said. “Outs are outs, but when you think of how hard it is to do and how infrequently it has been, it gets your attention.”
Pirates starter Johan Oviedo gave up three runs in four innings.
The benches and bullpens cleared, but no punches were thrown after Alonso was hit on the left elbow by an Oviedo pitch in the first.
It marked the fifth time a Pirates pitcher plunked a Mets batter since Saturday. Oviedo and Alonso exchanged words and gestures and JMcNeil helped steer Alonso toward first base while players milled. After a couple minutes, the teams began heading to their benches and bullpens while “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” played at Citi Field.
Oviedo also hit Alonso on the right hand on May 5 last year, when Oviedo was pitching for St. Louis.
“We got a hit a lot this series and I don’t really like guys potentially throwing hard and hurting us, especially this late in the year,” Alonso said.
The Mets have been hit 102 times, three shy of the record set by Cincinnati last year.
Pirates: RHP JT Brubaker (right arm inflammation), who exited his start after three innings Friday night, was placed on the 15-day IL. Pittsburgh recalled RHP Luis Ortiz from Triple-A Indianapolis.
Mets: RHP Drew Smith (right lat) could be activated as soon as Tuesday. Smith hasn’t pitched since July 24.
Pirates: Open a two-game series at the Yankees.
Mets: Max Scherzer (9-4, 2.26 ERA) will be activated to start Monday night’s series opener at Milwaukee after recovering from a strained left oblique. He will start for the first time since Sept. 3 and will make his fourth attempt at his 200th win.