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Jacob deGrom strikes out 14, but Mets suffer walk-off loss to Braves

Call Jacob deGrom whatever you want: an early bird, a self-starter, or just a guy who’s downright punctual. As great as the Cy Young frontrunner has been overall this season, he’s ratcheted up his dominance to historic proportions in the first inning.

But after his opening frame went uncharacteristically awry at Truist Park on Thursday, deGrom initiated an epic bounce-back effort, striking out 14 — including eight in a row at one point — over seven innings. The Mets also bounced back to force a ninth-inning tie, thanks to Dom Smith’s second homer of the night, but they fell short in the rubber match against the Braves, 4-3.

Entering the night, opponents were 1-for-39 (.026) vs. deGrom in the first, which marked the lowest single-season opponent average on record (minimum 40 batters faced). He’d also sent down 37 in a row in the opening frame, but the Braves, evidently, were uninterested in adding to that total.

A leadoff triple gave way to an RBI single and a two-run homer, and suddenly deGrom had allowed three runs in the first. That’s more runs than he’d allowed in an inning since Sept. 16, 2020. Oh, and it’s more earned runs than he’d allowed in any start this season.

When the inning ended, the Mets’ ace had a quick word in the dugout with catcher James McCann before slamming his glove against the bench. The second inning didn’t start much better, as the first two batters reached with a double and a single. But that’s where the fun ended for Atlanta, as deGrom began to dominate.

A laser-focused, poker-faced deGrom retired 18 consecutive batters from there, with 12 strikeouts in that span. His 14 strikeouts on the night were one off his season high, and his 27 whiffs were the most since he had 29 back on April 23.