DeGrom goes distance, drops ERA to 1.71, Mets top Phils 3-1

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              New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jacob deGrom didn’t take any chances of being lifted after a rain delay. Then, the New York Mets ace finished off one of his best performances of the year.

DeGrom pitched his first complete game of the season and lowered his major league-leading ERA to 1.71, leading the Mets over the Philadelphia Phillies 3-1 Saturday.

It appeared deGrom’s day might be cut short due to a 41-minute rain delay that began in the middle of the fourth. Pitching coach Dave Eiland put a 45-minute limit on returning.

DeGrom was so eager to resume that he walked toward the Philadelphia dugout to get a ball to warm up. He began to get loose on the mound before the umpires returned and prior to the Phillies’ grounds crew raking the field. He was forced to wait several minutes before throwing his final warmup toss as the field was being groomed.

“I didn’t want to get close to that 45 minutes,” he said.

DeGrom (8-7) kept boosting his NL Cy Young Award credentials and allowed only an unearned run, the result of his own error. He gave up seven hits, walked none, struck out nine and threw his hardest pitch, a 99 mph fastball, on the next-to-last of his 108 pitches.

“Jacob has continued to prove why he is probably the front-runner at this point,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said.

DeGrom has thrown three complete games in 132 starts in the majors. He tossed a one-hitter at Citizens Bank Park on July 17, 2016, in a 5-0 win over the Phillies.

Eiland approached deGrom prior to the ninth, and the right-hander was emphatic that he wanted to finish.

“I definitely wanted it badly,” deGrom said. “I said, ‘I’m going out there.’ And he was fine with it.”

DeGrom allowed a leadoff single to Rhys Hoskins in the fourth and then retired nine of 10 before the seventh, when Philadelphia got its lone run.

DeGrom pulled within two starts of Dwight Gooden’s club record with his 22nd consecutive start allowing three runs or less. He also eclipsed 200 strikeouts, finishing with 204 for the season. The two-time All-Star entered second in the NL and sixth in the majors in Ks.

“A lot of life on his fastball and best slider of the year,” catcher Devin Mesoraco said. “He had everything working. Very impressive.”

Hoskins and Maikel Franco each doubled among their two hits for the Phillies, who began the day a half-game behind Atlanta in the NL East and leading the NL wild-card race.

Jake Arrieta (9-8) allowed one run on four hits with six strikeouts and no walks in six strong innings.

The Mets went ahead in the fourth when Jeff McNeil scored from third on Wilmer Flores‘ single that caromed off the third-base bag and into left field.

New York took a 3-0 lead in the seventh with a pair of runs off Luis Garcia. Mesoraco homered and Amed Rosario scored on McNeil’s first career triple.

The Phillies scored after Nick Williams and Franco hit consecutive one-out singles. Williams scored when deGrom couldn’t handle Rosario’s throw from short on a potential double-play on Odubel Herrera’s groundball.

But the Mets got out of the inning when deGrom threw to first, where second baseman McNeil tagged out Herrera, who couldn’t get back to the bag after making a move toward second base.

WHO’S ON FIRST?

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler stuck with Carlos Santana at first base for defensive purposes despite Justin Bour’s strong career numbers against deGrom. Bour, acquired Aug. 10 from Miami to provide pop off the bench, entered 8 for 21 with two homers off deGrom.

“I thought long and hard about Bour starting today,” Kapler said. “I really wanted to find a way to get (Bour) in there today, but with Jake Arrieta on the mound, it’s very important that we put our best defensive infield out there.”

Bour struck out pinch hitting in the eighth. Santana was 1 for 4 with a strikeout.

ROTATION CHANGES

Callaway said RHP Corey Oswalt will move to the bullpen to keep the Mets with a five-man starting rotation. Oswalt is 2-2 with a 5.16 ERA in nine games, eight of which are starts.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: OF Jay Bruce (sore right hip), on the DL since June 18, went 0 for 3 in a rehab outing with Single-A St. Lucie on Friday night.

Phillies: RHP Jerad Eickhoff is scheduled to throw 75 pitches in a rehab outing with Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Sunday. Eickhoff has been out all season with a right lat strain.

UP NEXT

The teams wrap up their five-game series on Sunday night at Bowman Field in Williamsport as part of the Little League Classic. Mets LHP Jason Vargas (2-8, 8.10) opposes Phillies RHP Nick Pivetta (7-9, 4.37). Vargas has struggled but had success against the Phillies the last time he faced them in 2011 with Seattle, pitching a three-hit shutout.