NEW YORK -- For Jacob deGrom, winning would not have been a fitting initiation. In a year that has seen the Mets ride their starting pitchers to close loss after close loss, struggling to hit with enough thump to back them, deGrom experienced reality as a Mets pitcher in his big league debut.
Sparkling on the final night of a four-game Subway Series, the rookie held the Yankees to one run Thursday in seven innings. His success was so thorough that it even occurred at the plate, where deGrom snapped Mets pitchers' 0-for-64 run with a single in the third.
The problem was that no one else did much in a 1-0 loss to the Yankees at Citi Field, sending the Mets to a Subway Series split. The top six batters in manager Terry Collins' lineup finished 1-for-24 with 12 strikeouts, never really threatening to support deGrom with a run. At one point, the Mets tied a franchise record by whiffing in seven consecutive plate appearances. Seven of their 14 total strikeouts were looking. One Yankees reliever, Dellin Betances, struck out the side in the sixth and seventh innings.
"Not good, obviously," was how Mets third baseman David Wright described his team's offense. "We faced, obviously, some guys who threw the ball really well."
Betances was one. Yankees starter Chase Whitley was another, escaping serious trouble on two occasions to match deGrom early while making his own Major League debut. In the third inning, the Mets put runners on the corners with one out, but Eric Young Jr. popped out and Daniel Murphy struck out looking to end the threat. In the fifth, they put two men in scoring position with two men down, but Betances entered and retired Young on a groundout.
"Especially as a pitcher, with the nerves to come in here and execute his pitches like he did today, man, I tip my hat," Yankees catcher Brian McCann said of Whitley. "It was a great performance."
Starting over Juan Lagares for the third time in four games, Young also struck out looking with a man on first base in the eighth inning, stalling a rally that ended when Wright grounded out with runners on the corners. The result was the first 1-0 loss for either team in the Subway Series' 103-game history.
"We really couldn't get much going," Collins said.
It also resulted in a tough losing decision for deGrom, who entered the rotation in place of injured starter Dillon Gee. Though not as heralded of a pitching prospect as Wednesday's starter, Rafael Montero, deGrom had been performing better than anyone at Triple-A Las Vegas. He certainly looked the part of a big league pitcher Thursday, striking out six and dialing his fastball up as high as 95 mph.
"It's a feeling I'll probably never have again," deGrom said. "It was really cool."
Admittedly nervous in the first inning, deGrom said he settled into a groove by the third, sparking a run of 11 consecutive batters retired. His only blemish came during a seventh-inning rally that was not entirely his fault.
After deGrom walked Mark Teixeira with one out, McCann hit a ground ball into a defensive overshift on the right side. Murphy fielded it and flipped to Wright, who was covering second base as a makeshift shortstop. But Wright's throw was off-target, allowing McCann to reach safely.
The next batter, Alfonso Soriano, hit a two-out RBI double that won the game.
"It was kind of a funky one," Wright said, noting that he practices throws from second base nearly every day. "I kind of took a peek and I saw him getting down the line fairly well and I knew it was kind of a close play, so I tried to rush it a little bit. I just couldn't come up with as good of a throw as I would have liked to have if I would have been able to come across the bag with some momentum."
Momentum is a thing the Mets have had precious little of lately in any aspect of the game. Their lineup is disjointed, their bullpen is in flux and their results -- 10 losses in their last 14 games -- have reflected that.
The primary thing the Mets have going for them right now is their starting pitching. Wright called deGrom "spectacular," which didn't seem all that much like hyperbole. A day after Montero gave the Mets a quality start in his debut, deGrom did even better -- despite the end result.
"It makes you feel good when you go out and your debut's good," deGrom said. "You want to prove you can pitch at this level. That was my goal to keep the game close and give us a chance to win."