Two seasons into his major league career and Jacob deGrom’s resume is filled with stuff that pops off the page.
He was Rookie of the Year last season, an All-Star this year and has two wins in his first postseason, including the deciding Game 5 victory against the Dodgers in the NLDS last week.
And there’s this little nugget, somewhere near the bottom but never to be forgotten by the 27-year-old Mets right-hander who can all but bury the Cubs in the NLCS with another big performance in Game 3 of the NLCS Tuesday night at Wrigley Field:
A home run in college against a certain Chicago star pitcher.
“The only home run I hit in college was against Chris Sale,’’ deGrom said Monday as he walked away from the podium of the interview room at Wrigley Field. “It was more like, I swung and Chris Sale hit my bat.’’
That was when deGrom was matched up against fellow Floridian Sale, the White Sox’ perennial Cy Young Award candidate, in the 2010 Atlantic Sun Conference tournament vs. Sale and Florida Gulf Coast. And get a load of this: deGrom bats left-handed, noteworthy considering Sale has allowed three homers to lefties in his major league career.
“It was a 2-0 fastball down the middle,’’ said deGrom
who wasn’t drafted out of high school and didn’t hit well enough as a shortstop his first two years in college to be a pro prospect — until he was converted to a closer, and then a starter, his junior year, which caught the attention of scouts who came to see Sale. The Sox would take Sale 13th overall in the draft; the Mets snagged deGrom in the ninth round.
After his Rookie Ball season in 2010, deGrom would have Tommy John surgery which not only marked the time in his life he stopped giving himself buzz cuts – he has thick, shoulder length hair now – but it also gave him a new arm which he turned into a big-time weapon for the Mets, perfecting a changeup and slider and developing a curve ball to go with a 95-96 mph fastball.
It’s a package deGrom used to post a 9-6 record and 2.69 ERA over 140 innings as a 2014 rookie and a 14-8, 2.54 ERA over 191 this season.
In the NLDS, he pitched seven scoreless innings with 13 strikeouts against the Dodgers in game 1, then won Game 5 “with no fastball command,” deGrom said Monday, holding LA to two runs on six hits and two walks over six innings.
This is whom the Cubs will be up against Tuesday night, although his past speaks in the Cubs favor – he’s 0-2 lifetime with a 6.46 ERA against the Cubs in three starts.
Both losses came this season.
“We know deGrom is one of the best in baseball,’’ said Kris Bryant, who hit his first Wrigley Field homer against him May 12 (followed by an Anthony Rizzo homer in the first inning). And after having Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard stick it to them in Games 1 and 2 after the Cubs went 7-0 against the Mets during the regular season, it’s not like the Cubs are oozing confidence.
“I wouldn’t say that at all,’’ Bryant said. “It’s just a completely different ballgame, the playoffs. Harvey and Syndergaard pitched us completely different than they did the first times we faced them.’’
deGrom said he hadn’t even reviewed those previous Cubs outings.
“I know they weren’t very good starts,’’ he said. “I’m going to flush that and I know this is the playoffs, so it’s going to be a good start for me.
“[The postseason], it’s a lot of fun. That’s what we play for. You never know how many times you’re going to get it, so when you get this chance you want to make the best of it.’’