DeGrom dazzles in return, bullpen costs Mets in Nats loss

WASHINGTON (AP) – The nerves took longer than usual for Jacob deGrom. He was 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 nearly tripped himself up with the Cy Young Award. He allowed one run on three hits and struck out six over five innings before a slump cost the New York Mets a 5-1 loss to the Washington Nationals that snapped their game-high seven-game hitting streak on Tuesday night.

“Going out there and playing and being 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 being out there and being healthy and feeling good is definitely a good step.”

Sidelined for the second half of last season by an elbow injury and closed out of spring training late because of a stress reaction in his right shoulder blade, deGrom received a standing ovation from a packed crowd of Mets fans before his first game back in nearly 13. months. To applause when he threw a 99 mph fastball in his first meaningful pitch since July 7, 2021, deGrom went 46 of 59 for strikes before exiting the game around the time the team planned.

He averaged 99.7 mph on 31 fastballs, throwing 13 in triple figures and finishing at 101.6 mph.

“His fastball was over 100 and his slider is ugly,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “I know he’s still trying to build up, but his stuff has been really good.”

The 34-year-old two-time NL Cy Young Award winner had all but one strikeout and was much sharper than his last rehab start in the minors last week, when he allowed four runs in four 67-pitch innings. He left with a no-decision after Francisco Lindor homered for the NL East leaders in the sixth, and he criticized himself for making two errors in the fourth that plated a Nationals run.

“That’s going to be part of it: not being out there that long and getting a good feel for things,” deGrom said. “Overall I felt like I could get the ball where it needed to be.”

Mets reliever Steven 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 López 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 game,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s been a lot of fun to watch and I’ve enjoyed watching him play baseball this year.”

New York’s NL East lead was cut to 2 1/2 games over Atlanta.

Making his first start of the season in the wake of the blockbuster trade that sent Nationals superstar Juan Soto and veteran first baseman Josh Bell to San Diego, Cory Abbott allowed two runs and struck out three in five shutout innings. Victor Arano (1-0) got the win in relief.

TRADE DEADLINE

While the Nationals were selling, the Mets were buying at the trade deadline, acquiring right-handed power hitter Darin Ruf from the Giants and reliever Mychal Givens from the Cubs. New York sent DH/3B JD Davis and three pitching prospects to San Francisco for Ruf, and minor league pitcher Saúl González to Chicago for Givens.

Washington made no moves other than the blockbuster deal with San Diego and the trade Monday that sent utility player Ehire Andrianza to Atlanta for minor league outfielder Trey Harris.

WELCOME TO THE ADULTS

Joey Meneses, who was called up to the majors for the first time at age 30 to fill Bell’s spot on the roster, struck out against deGrom in his first at-bat and returned in the seventh. Although his time starting at first base may be short with the arrival of first baseman Luke Voit, Meneses made history by being the first Mexican-born player to make his major league debut.

“The emotions were amazing,” Meneses said. “I was a bit shocked when I first realized what was going on. I did not know what to do. I was focused on getting my first hit in the big leagues and luckily it turned out to be even better than that.”

COACH ROOM

Mets: RHP Trevor May (right triceps) could be activated as soon as Wednesday. He has been on the injured list since May 3. “I hope he’s a good addition for us,” Showalter said. “Compared to some of the other things, if we get him back right, that’s a big piece to add to our bullpen.”

Nationals: Rookie LHP MacKenzie Gore, the furthest of the five young players acquired by the Padres for Soto and Bell, will not be rushed back from elbow inflammation by a last-place team looking to the future . Gore was placed on the injured list last week, though the injury was not a hindrance to completing the game after the Nationals got the green light from their doctor. “We’re going to go slow with him, for sure,” general manager Mike Rizzo said.

NEXT

Ruf could make his Mets debut in Wednesday’s series finale after coming over in a trade from the Giants. Chris Bassitt (7-7, 3.83 ERA) will start for New York against Aníbal Sánchez (0-3, 7.47).

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