Jacob deGrom faced a tall order when he took the mound for Sunday’s game against the Washington Nationals. The New York Mets were facing a four-game series sweep if they dropped the Father’s Day matinee to their division rivals. deGrom made sure they avoided that fate, giving up one run on three hits over eight strong innings as the Mets took the series finale 5-1. For good measure, deGrom chipped in on offense, launching his first career home run, a solo shot, in the third inning to tie the game at 1-1.

“I think I got lucky,” deGrom said of his home run. “I was running pretty hard, so no,  I didn’t know it was going.”

The Mets still face an uphill battle in the NL East race, as they sit 10.5 games back of the Nationals. At the same time, deGrom’s outing offered a moment of relief for a team plagued by injury and uncertainty. For a pitching staff that has struggled to go deep into games, deGrom pitched at least seven innings for the second straight start. He also continued his dominance in day games. According to Justin Tasch at The New York Daily News, deGrom is 16-4 with a 1.71 earned run average in day games he has started in his career.

Terry Collins realizes deGrom’s importance to the team.

“Those are the kind of guys that stop losing streaks,” Collins said of deGrom. “You lose three in a row, and who shows up? Jake deGrom. And that means a lot.”

Of course, the road does not get any easier for the Mets. They begin a four-game series against Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers tomorrow night. Many of the team’s big hitters struggle against Kershaw. Jay Bruce has faced Kershaw 20 times in his career, but managed just five hits and six strikeouts. Lucas Duda is 1-11 with eight strikeouts. Yoenis Cespedes is 0-9 with three strikeouts, while Curtis Granderson is 3-17 with four strikeouts.

If the Mets want to start their west-coast swing off on the right foot, they need another stellar pitching performance. Kershaw will not give an inch, and Zack Wheeler needs to match the competition.

“If you win games, you’ll be back in the race and that’s what we have to do,” Collins added.

That opportunity comes tomorrow as the Mets look to start a new winning streak.

 

Jesse Andreozzi is a staff writer at Outside Pitch Sports Network covering the New York Mets. Follow him on Twitter @Jesse_Andreozzi.