Jacob DeGrom
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The Mets got two-time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom back in the rotation last week, after a year-plus absence, and Sunday he returned to the hill in Citi Field. He hasn't lost a step. Not even close. 

He picked up the win in a 5-2 Mets victory over the Braves and looked like the best player in the game. 

In fact, deGrom showed for five-plus innings that he still has the raw stuff to be the best pitcher on the planet. The basic, final box score line won't do justice to what deGrom did in front of the Mets faithful on Sunday. The line itself was still pretty great, too. 

Jacob deGrom
NYM • SP • 48
IP5 2/3
H1
R2
BB1
K12
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deGrom actually retired the first 17 hitters he faced. Yes, he had a perfect game going through 5 2/3 innings before issuing a walk and then giving up a two-run home run to Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson. Those last two batters really uglied up what was previously one of the filthiest performances we've seen in 2022. 

deGrom had everything working from the start. His average fourseam fastball was 99.1 miles per hour and he topped 100 on more than a handful of pitches. His top velocity reading? A cool 101.6. Of his 33 sliders, 20 induced swings and a whopping 18 were swing-and-misses. For those unaware, a 90 percent whiff rate on any pitch at the big-league level is unheard of. The league leaders are generally close to 70 percent. 

Here's a good illustration of how deGrom made Braves hitters look for much of the day: 

If there was any concern at all in this outing, it was deGrom lasting only 76 pitches and the Braves getting to him in the last eight or so. Let's keep the proper perspective here, though, which is that deGrom missed over a year with elbow and shoulder injuries and he's 34 years old. 

That is to say, the Mets are handling deGrom with extreme care right now, as well they should. They entered Sunday with a 5 1/2 game division lead, so the eyes are firmly on finishing the regular season and then having a full-go deGrom ready for October. This means the most important aspect of Sunday was for deGrom to continue progressing. He threw 59 pitches in his first outing back, and this time around he went into the mid-70s. 

Simply: So far, so good with Jacob deGrom in his return from the injured list. 

As for the NL East, the Mets saw their lead nearly evaporate. The 10 1/2 game lead they owned heading into June was down to a 1/2 game on July 23. Since then, though, the Mets have gone 12-2. They won two of three over the Braves in Atlanta shortly before the All-Star break and this time around took four of five in Citi Field. The Mets' lead is now back up to 6 1/2 games, the largest it has been since June 18. 

Overall, the series was quite a statement from the Mets. They could have lost the division lead in the five-game series. Instead, they pumped the lead up to a pretty comfortable margin.