By CHARLES O’BRIEN, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Jacob deGrom struck out 12 and carried a perfect game into the sixth inning of his second start all season, pitching the New York Mets past the Atlanta Braves 5-2 on Sunday for their 12th victory in 14 games.
Pete Alonso drove in two runs and the first-place Mets finished with 19 strikeouts — including three in a row from closer Edwin Díaz to end it. They took four of five from Atlanta in their NL East showdown, extending their division lead to 6 1/2 games over the defending World Series champions.
Pitching at home for the first time in 13 months, a dominant deGrom (1-0) retired his first 17 batters — 12 on strikeouts — before walking No. 9 batter Ehire Adrianza with two outs in the sixth.
Dansby Swanson followed with a two-run homer on the 76th and final pitch from deGrom, making it 5-2.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner missed the final three months last season with right forearm tightness and a sprained elbow, then was shut down late in spring training because of a stress reaction in his right scapula. He finally returned Tuesday at Washington, throwing five innings of one-run ball in a rare Mets loss lately.
New York fans had to wait a little longer than they planned to see deGrom go to work as the start of the game was delayed 20 minutes by rain. Once play began, however, deGrom didn’t disappoint the Citi Field crowd.
A standing ovation greeted the 34-year-old ace before he stepped onto the mound and his first pitch was a 99 mph fastball that Swanson lofted into right field for the first out. The right-hander then struck out Matt Olson on four pitches, each of which was 100 mph or faster.
Making his 200th major league start, deGrom finished with the most strikeouts by a Mets pitcher this season. With shadows creeping over the infield during a late-afternoon start, Atlanta swung and missed at each of his first 18 sliders.
While deGrom was silencing the Atlanta bats, the Mets scored four times against rookie Spencer Strider (6-4) in the third.
Brandon Nimmo led off with an infield single and moved to third on Francisco Lindor’s single to center. Alonso delivered the big blow of the inning with a double off the third-base bag. Daniel Vogelbach walked and both burly sluggers chugged home on Mark Canha’s double into the left-center gap.
Strider needed 79 pitches to complete 2 2/3 innings in the shortest start of his career. The Mets added another run in the fifth when Jeff McNeil scampered home on a wild pitch.
Joely Rodríguez allowed one hit and struck out four over 2 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of deGrom. Díaz fanned all three batters in the ninth for his 26th save.
For the second straight game, Mets fans taunted the Braves in the ninth inning by performing the tomahawk chop.
Braves: OF Ronald Acuña Jr. was a late scratch from the lineup with lower-body soreness. He flied out as a pinch-hitter in the seventh and remained in the game for the final two innings. … C Travis d’Arnaud (right lower leg) was in a walking boot after Alonso slid into him hard on a play at the plate. X-rays were negative and d’Arnaud is expected to return to the lineup later this week.
Mets: LHP Joey Lucchesi (Tommy John surgery) continues to progress. While there is still no timetable for his return, manager Buck Showalter indicated Lucchesi could be a bullpen option upon his return.
Braves: After an off day, RHP Charlie Morton (5-5, 4.09 ERA) takes the mound Tuesday as Atlanta opens a two-game series in Boston. He’ll be opposed by LHP Rich Hill (4-5, 4.52).
Mets: RHP Chris Bassitt (8-7, 3.61 ERA) starts at home Monday night when New York begins a three-game series against Cincinnati. RHP Justin Dunn makes his season debut for the Reds after being sidelined since June 2021 with a shoulder injury. Dunn grew up on Long Island not far from Citi Field and was a first-round draft pick by the Mets out of Boston College.
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