NEW YORK —
Dave Roberts billed it as a potential postseason pitching matchup.
If so, he better hope the Dodgers do a whole lot better against Jacob deGrom in October.
In a 2-1 loss to the New York Mets on Wednesday night, the Dodgers could never fully crack the two-time Cy Young Award winner.
They were hitless over the first four innings. They didn’t score their first run until the sixth. And, for a team that entered the night leading baseball in most offensive categories, it looked largely overmatched for one of the only times this year.
“He was Jacob deGrom — throwing 100-mph fastballs and locating the slider,” said third baseman Justin Turner.
“He’s pretty much the best,” outfielder Mookie Betts added. “He’s a tough task.”
Betts did hit a home run, matching his career high with his 32nd of the season.
Justin Turner probably should have had one, too, robbed of a potential game-tying blast in the seventh inning by Brandon Nimmo’s leaping catch in center field.
And on a night left-hander Tyler Anderson scattered eight hits to limit the Mets to two runs over seven innings, the Dodgers were never out of it, the result not sealed until Mets closer Edwin Díaz trotted in to a live trumpet performance of his entrance song in the ninth and retired the side in order.
“It was a pitcher’s duel,” Roberts said. “A really good baseball game to be a part of.”
Just not the greatest harbinger of things to come for the Dodgers.
From the start, deGrom was dealing. He coupled edge-of-the-zone fastballs and hard-biting sliders to righties. He mixed in changeups and curveballs to lefties. And he kept the Dodgers off balance and out of sync, stranding a walk in the first inning before retiring 12 in a row to take a no-hit bid into the fifth.
Turner finally broke it up with a seeing-eye single that snuck through the left side of the infield.
Then, in the sixth, Betts took advantage of a rare mistake, launching a hanging slider over the left-field wall to cut the Dodgers’ deficit in half — following a Starling Marte two-run homer in the bottom of the third.
The Dodgers, however, wouldn’t score again.
Turner came closest with his drive in the seventh, managing the near-impossible task of squaring up a 99.6-mph deGrom four-seamer only to watch Nimmo leap at the wall and snag it at the last second.
“Great play by Nimmo,” Turner said. “Not a whole lot you can do about it.”
DeGrom finished his night a batter later with his ninth strikeout, lowering his season ERA — he’s made only six starts after missing the first half with a scapula injury — to a 1.98.
“We knew what we were getting into with Jacob tonight,” Roberts said. “That’s why when he’s right, he’s the best in the game.”
The question now: Will the Dodgers have to face the 34-year-old ace in October?
The Dodgers (90-39) have all but locked up the National League’s top spot, still leading the Mets (83-48) by eight games after Wednesday’s loss. The Mets likely will be the No. 2 or 4 seed, depending on if they hold off the Atlanta Braves in the NL East.
Either way, they seem likely as anyone to cross path with the Dodgers, either in a five-game division series or potentially a seven-game league championship series.
So, in their first meeting with deGrom since 2019, did the Dodgers learn something Wednesday they can file away for later?
Answers in the clubhouse postgame varied.
Turner wasn’t interested in speculating, saying there’s still “a lot of baseball ahead of both of us to get to that point.”
Betts was also careful not to put too much weight on one game.
“It can’t hurt,” he said. “But times will be different then. Emotions and all those things play a part in that. So can’t really simulate today versus October.”
Roberts was more pragmatic, noting that deGrom — who had never before been credited with a win against the Dodgers in his career, the only NL team he’d yet to beat — threw fewer fastballs and more off-speed pitches than they expected.
“It’s something that we need to keep in the back of our minds, that yeah, he can go to the secondaries, if needed,” Roberts said.
Still, the Dodgers might be best to avoid deGrom entirely.
They’ve routinely hit good, and even great, pitching this year. But what they saw Wednesday was something entirely different.
“I don’t think anybody does,” Betts said when asked if another pitcher compares to deGrom. “I think the stats kind of say that as well.”