Jacob deGrom writes his name all over the strikeout record books

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Jacob deGrom becomes the first pitcher in MLB history to strike out 50 through his first four starts to begin a season

Jacob deGrom has already won two Cy Young Awards, an ERA title, and is at least in the conversation with Tom Seaver as the greatest Mets pitchers ever. For all he’s accomplished, he was never better than he was on Friday night against the Washington Nationals.

The 32-year-old right-hander pitched his second career complete-game shutout, holding the Nationals to two hits in a 6-0 Mets win at Citi Field. But what will be remembered most about his performance isn’t the number of runs he gave up or the hits he surrendered: it’s the strikeouts he racked up in record-breaking numbers.

deGrom struck out 15 Nationals, a new career-high and the most by a Mets pitcher since Al Leiter on Aug. 1, 1999. He’s now up to 50 strikeouts on the season, the most in MLB history through a pitcher’s first four starts.

He entered the seventh inning with 47 strikeouts, one behind the record first set by Nolan Ryan in 1978 and matched by Cleveland’s Shane Bieber earlier this season. deGrom tied them by getting Trea Turner to swing at a changeup in the dirt. His 49th and record-setting strikeout came on another changeup to Josh Bell. deGrom finished the inning by getting Kyle Schwarber looking at a slider on the inside corner.

Mets: Jacob deGrom set all kinds of records against the Nationals

deGrom didn’t get any strikeouts over the final two innings, snapping a streak of 23 straight innings with at least one dating back to his first start on April 5. He still retired the side in order, finishing the game on a run of 19 consecutive batters retired and his first complete-game shutout since 2016.

deGrom’s name is now all over the baseball record books. He’s the third pitcher in history to strike out at least 14 in three straight starts, joining Pedro Martinez (1999) and Gerrit Cole (2019). He’s the first with 43 strikeouts over a three-start span since Martinez struck out 46 in September 1999. Only Dwight Gooden, who had 53 between Sept. 1-17, 1984, ever struck out more batters than deGrom over any four-game stretch in franchise history. Gooden had three 14-strikeout games that season, a Mets record; deGrom has three straight, and it’s still April.

Of the 101 batters to step to the plate against deGrom this season, 50 have walked back to the dugout as a strikeout victim. The MLB record is 41.1 percent by Bieber last season; deGrom is now at 49.5 percent.

He didn’t give the Nationals much to hit on Friday. He threw 23 fastballs at 100 mph or more. There are currently 21 qualified starting pitchers, including such names as Clayton Kershaw and Hyun Jin Ryu, who don’t throw their fastball more than 92 mph; deGrom threw 25 sliders faster than 92 against the Nationals.

deGrom lowered his ERA on the season to 0.31. Opponents are hitting just .133 against him. He even drove in a run on Friday, giving him two RBI on the season. He’s given up just one run this season as a pitcher.

He was already arguably the best pitcher in the league. Now opposing batters have to reckon with what must be a terrifying thought: deGrom is only getting better.

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