Jacob deGrom’s first appearance since his outstanding All-Star Game performance came with a bat in his hand.
The New York Mets need him to make an impact in a more customary role.
DeGrom looks to continue his road dominance and beat the NL East-leading Washington Nationals for the first time Tuesday night.
DeGrom (9-6, 2.14 ERA) made quite an impression as the Mets’ lone All-Star last Tuesday, striking out the side on 10 pitches in the sixth inning.
"That was unreal," deGrom told MLB’s official website. "I was looking forward to getting a chance to throw, and I was pretty nervous in the bullpen, but when I got out there, the nerves kind of went away. And it was an awesome experience."
The right-hander hasn’t pitched in any other game since July 8 but did play Sunday, walking as a pinch-hitter in the 17th inning before the Mets (48-45) won 3-1 at St. Louis in the next inning.
This time, deGrom takes the mound looking to extend a 16-inning shutout streak on the road – the longest by a Met since Johan Santana went 20 in 2010. He’s 4-1 with an 0.94 ERA over his last five road starts with 38 strikeouts and five walks in 38 1-3 innings.
DeGrom, though, is 0-2 with a 4.15 ERA in three starts against the Nationals (50-41).
The Mets failed to get this three-game set off to a strong start Monday, falling 7-2 as Matt Harvey was touched for five runs. His single drove in both of their runs as the offense went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
New York is 4 for 72 in that scenario over the past nine games, and that must improve if the team is going to close the three-game gap on Washington in the division race.
"We’ve got to go score some runs. That’s how you win the games. We like our pitching. We think we’ll stay in games," manager Terry Collins said. "But we got to put some points up, too."
Daniel Murphy is in a 6-for-39 slump overall and has hit .182 in eight meetings with the Nationals this year.
Washington is recalling Joe Ross (2-1, 2.66) from Triple-A Syracuse with Stephen Strasburg (oblique) on the disabled list. The rookie right-hander was impressive during his three-start stint last month, winning his last two while allowing three runs with 19 strikeouts in 15 1-3 innings.
"He stepped in (for) his first start and acted as if he’d been here before," manager Matt Williams said. "And then, of course, his other two starts were even better. We have a comfort level that he can come up here and do what he can do to help us win that particular game that he pitches."
Ross went 3-0 with a 1.37 ERA over his last four starts with Syracuse.
Ian Desmond, batting .208, had a two-run homer and singled Monday after going 3 for 44 over his previous 13 games. He credited a chance encounter with a Hall of Famer for his slump-busting performance.
"The other day, I was walking to the park, and Cal Ripken was out there signing autographs in the parking lot," Desmond said. "He kind of grabbed me and he said, ‘Hey, back in ’93, through the first 80 games, I was hitting .199.’ He said, ‘I finished with a pretty good year. You’re going to be all right.’ And that kind of gave me a little bit of hope. If he did it and grinded through it, I can, too."
Desmond is hitting .339 in his last 16 home games against the Mets but is 0 for 5 against deGrom this year.