NEW YORK – The good news for the Mets? Jacob deGrom is getting closer and closer.
The bad news? The Atlanta Braves too.
Drew Smith allowed a home run for the third straight appearance and the run in Eastern Newfoundland tightened following the Mets’ 5-2 loss to Miami on Friday night at Citi Field.
A division lead that once reached double digits shrunk to 2.5 games with the Braves beating Washington.
“We play a lot against the Braves in the second half, so a lot of things can change and you try not to watch that stuff,” Smith said. “At least I don’t. Everything will play out throughout the season.”
Consolation came in the form of deGrom, who pitched three scoreless innings in his second rehab start for Single-A St. Lucie.
DeGrom allowed three hits and struck out six. He was retired after 36 pitches (29 for strikes) on his last step back following a stress reaction in his right shoulder blade.
There was so much anticipation for deGrom’s Daytona Beach debut that it was streamed live on SNY’s app. Proximity to his hometown, DeLand, meant much of the family was close at hand, including deGrom’s wife and parents.
It’s now been a full year since deGrom’s last major league game, although he could be tagged for a return later this month.
“I feel really good,” deGrom told reporters. “It’s step by step, but I followed the process, how it was laid out and tried not to overdo it. Everything feels good.”
Speaking of returns
Rust didn’t seem to be a factor for Chris Bassitt, who missed his final turn in the rotation after testing positive for COVID.
“I did a lot of cardio, so I don’t think that’s really a problem,” Bassitt said. “I felt really good.”
The Mets right-hander scattered two runs and six hits in 6.1 innings. He’s gone at least six innings in 12 of his 16 starts this year, and this one came with a new wrinkle.
For the first time in his career, Bassitt has made three consecutive starts against the same team.
“They know my routine and my pitch selection inside out, pretty much everything, so I would say it’s a lot harder to be effective,” Bassitt said. “But I think sometimes it’s a blessing because you can really see what they’re trying to do to you.”
Smith was the first out of the bullpen and finished seventh with a 4-6-3 double play late in the set.
But Garrett Cooper pushed Smith deep an inning later with a two-run shot from the foul post on the right. It sent the Marlins to their third win in nine tries over the Mets and thinned out a crowd of 25,208 fans.
Smith still boasts a 3.06 ERA, having pitched 13.1 consecutive scoreless innings to start the season.
“He’ll be fine,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s got a good arm and a strong constitution. If you look at his numbers and the big picture, he’s having a good year.”
Set the table
Brandon Nimmo collected his eighth home run of the season – tying his total from each of the last three seasons – with a shot soaring into the upper right deck.
This is shaping up to be one of the most productive seasons for the Mets leadoff hitter, who continues to increase his value as an impending free agent.
Over his last 16 games, Nimmo has gone 22 for 67 with 12 runs, four homers and 11 RBIs. It doesn’t hurt that he was finally able to stay healthy as an everyday centre-back, aside from a brief stint on COVID IL in April.
The only other run for the Mets on Friday came in the eighth when Francisco Lindor woke up the crowd with a solo shot.
Marlins reliever Steven Okert then charged the bases with two walks and a batted hitter, but forced Eduardo Escobar out to end the inning.
“We knew it was going to be a challenge with their pitcher,” Showalter said.
“We’ll have the same challenge the next two days and we’ll have it with Atlanta and we’ll have it with the Cubs.”