NEW YORK -- How well can a human being pitch while getting little to no support from his team? If the last three months are any indication, Jacob deGrom is going to find out again Friday night.
DeGrom will take his major league-leading ERA to the mound when the Mets host the Atlanta Braves in the second contest of a four-game series at Citi Field. The Braves earned a 4-2 win Thursday, when Freddie Freeman (single) and Johan Camargo (two-run double) each had RBI hits in a three-run third inning.
DeGrom (5-6, 1.82 ERA) is scheduled to oppose the Braves' Anibal Sanchez (5-3, 3.00) in a battle of right-handers.
The Mets (44-62) have scored 53 runs with deGrom on the mound in his 21 starts this season, including 27 in his last 15 starts dating back to May 2 -- a stretch in which deGrom has recorded a 1.73 ERA but went 2-6. Twelve of those runs came against the Colorado Rockies at hitter-friendly Coors Field on June 18.
The lack of run support has not only endangered deGrom's hopes of winning the Cy Young Award, which has never gone to a starting pitcher with fewer than 13 wins, but also given him a chance to finish with a losing record despite a sub-2.00 ERA. No one has done that since Jim Scott went 20-21 with a 1.90 ERA over 312 1/3 innings for the Chicago White Sox in 1913.
DeGrom did his best to aid his cause in his most recent start Saturday, when he collected two hits but took the loss after giving up three runs over seven innings as the Mets fell to the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-0.
"He did his job again," Mets manager Mickey Callaway told reporters afterward. "He continues to put us in a position to win, and we're failing him."
DeGrom will face a former ERA champ in Sanchez, who won the American League crown with a 2.57 mark for the Detroit Tigers in 2013. He posted a 5.15 ERA over the next four seasons but has mounted a comeback this season for the Braves, who signed Sanchez as a free agent March 16.
Sanchez has allowed two runs or fewer in eight of his 13 starts and has given up more than three runs only three times -- including in his most recent start Sunday, when he took the defeat after surrendering five runs (four earned) over 6 1/3 innings as the Braves lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers, 8-2. His ERA is at 3.00 for just the second time this year. He also had a 3.00 ERA following his fourth appearance and third start on May 29.
Sanchez was scheduled to start Wednesday, when the Braves were rained out against the Miami Marlins. The postponement disappointed manager Brian Snitker, who was eager to see Sanchez back on the mound.
"I wanted Anibal to get out there," Snitker told reporters.
DeGrom is 5-4 with a 1.80 ERA in 15 career starts against the Braves. Sanchez is 4-4 with a 4.34 ERA in 13 career starts against the Mets.