WASHINGTON — The nerves lasted longer than usual for Jacob deGrom. He was perfectly fine with that after waiting so long to get back on the mound.
Making his first major league start in more than a year, deGrom looked almost back to his Cy Young Award self. He allowed one run on three hits and struck out six in five innings before a bullpen meltdown cost the New York Mets in a 5-1 loss to the Washington Nationals that halted their season-high seven-game winning streak Tuesday night.
“To get out there and pitch and be healthy, that’s the reward,” deGrom said between smiles afterward. “The goal was to win a baseball game and we weren’t able to do that tonight, but to be out there and be healthy and feel good is definitely a good step.”
Sidelined for the second half of last season by an elbow injury and shut down late in spring training because of a stress reaction in his right scapula, deGrom got a standing ovation from a crowd full of Mets fans prior to his first game back in almost 13 months. Serenaded with applause when he delivered a 99 mph fastball on his first meaningful pitch since July 7, 2021, deGrom threw 46 of 59 for strikes before coming out of the game around the time the team planned for.
He averaged 99.7 mph on 31 fastballs, throwing 13 in triple digits and topping out at 101.6 mph.
“His fastball was over 100, and his slider is nasty,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “I know that he’s still trying to build up, but his stuff was really good.”
The 34-year-old two-time NL Cy Young Award winner got all but one of his strikeouts swinging and was much sharper than his final rehab start in the minors last week when he allowed four runs in four innings on 67 pitches. He left with a no-decision after Francisco Lindor homered for the NL East leaders in the sixth, and criticized himself for making two mistakes in the fourth that added up to a Nationals run.
“That’s going to be part of this: not being out there in that long and getting a good feel for the stuff,” deGrom said. “Overall I felt like I was able to locate the ball where I needed to.”
Mets reliever Stephen Nogosek (0-1) took the loss after allowing a two-run homer to Luis Garcia and a solo shot to Yadiel Hernandez in the sixth. Yoan Lopez also gave up a homer in the seventh, when he got big help from center fielder Brandon Nimmo on a diving catch to end the inning.
“What a play,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s been a lot of fun to…