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Mike Lupica: Jacob deGrom was good on a night the Mets needed him to be great

During what has been such a wonderful baseball season in New York, one that brought us to a night like Friday night, with Aaron Judge going for No. 62 and Jacob deGrom starting the Mets’ biggest regular-season series in years against the Braves, there has been some very heavy side action going on. Call it Moneyball for Judge and for deGrom. And not the kind of Moneyball from the book and the movie.

The book and movie were about looking for big results by spending small money, the way Billy Beane used to in Oakland. No, this is all about big money in New York, for Judge and for deGrom, both looking for new contracts when this season ends, however the season ends for the Mets and Yankees.

We know the kind of money Judge turned down in the spring, with free agency looming for him. And now we see how he has responded, with one of the great offensive seasons in baseball history, not just the home runs but the chance to win a Triple Crown in New York for the first time since Mickey Mantle did it for the Yankees back in 1956. We know the score Judge is going to make, if not from the Yankees then somebody else.

So he is winning all over the place right now, on his first-place team, on his side of Baseball New York. He placed this kind of bet on himself and you see how he has delivered, with history.

It is going to be more complicated with deGrom, who came back from injury to finally make his first start for the Mets in July. And on Friday night he pitched the first of his Moneyball starts in Atlanta, the night before October, first game of a series that will likely decide first place in the National League East. He struck out 11 Braves batters, but also gave up three solo home runs to the Braves, two of them in the second inning, back-to-back, one from Austin Riley and then a moonshot from Matt Olson, making Braves fans at Truist Park all rise.

Jacob deGrom wasn’t the only reason the Mets ended up in a tie with the Braves by late Friday night, but he was as big as any, even if the Mets did load the bases in the 9th. But on a night when they needed him to be at his best he was not.

He may get another chance in Game 162 if the division comes down to that for the Mets. He will sure get his chance to stand and deliver in the postseason. Maybe he will make the decision about the Mets signing him to his own big-money contract when the season is over a slam dunk, if he wants to stay.

It just isn’t that yet.

He is 5-4 now, and still has struck out 102 batters in 64.1 innings, but his earned run average has now crept over three runs a game for the season after Friday’s loss. He has still been something to see at his best. Everybody remembers another day against Atlanta when he first came back and was perfect into the sixth until Dansby Swanson took him over the wall for a 2-run homer. That day he looked like the deGrom who had won back-to-back Cy Young Awards for the Mets and the deGrom who would eventually reach 40 starts without giving up more than three runs in a game. The way he could strike out people, seemingly at will, he looked like Edwin Diaz, just as a starting pitcher.

“I just threw some pitches down the middle. I didn’t do a good job of locating when I needed to. I left some balls over the middle of the plate and they did damage on them,” he said after the loss in Atlanta.

It is what everybody says when a few pitches beat them. Except that we’re used to deGrom not being everybody. Again: He did not get lit up by everybody on the Braves, everybody knows that. But he got lit up three times before Tylor Megill came out of the bullpen and allowed the Braves to pull away to 5-2. He did not come up as big as the Mets needed him to, on a night when the Mets offense, including their stars, came up short as well.

In fairness, of course, deGrom developed a blood blister that forced him out of the game after six innings, more as a precautionary measure than anything. He did not use that as either a reason or excuse afterward.

DeGrom is 34 now, and will turn 35 next June. He still has a season on his resume like in 2018, and had a remarkable 1.08 ERA last year before being shut down because of his right shoulder. We all see what Max Scherzer has done at the age of 38, after signing with the Mets for three years and $130 million, even missing a lot of starts this season because of injury, if not to his pitching shoulder. We see what Justin Verlander, back from Tommy John, has done for the Astros at the age of 39.

DeGrom can exercise a $30.5 million option and stay with the Mets in 2023. Or the Mets can try to sign him for more years and more money before he becomes a free agent. It’s easy to know how Mets fans will weigh in on this. They know what they have seen from him, know that at the top of his game deGrom has been Tom Seaver at the top of his game; come as close as anybody for the Mets ever has to being Dwight Gooden in 1985.

Then deGrom got hurt and took more than a year off in real time. Came back on fire, you bet. Then the A’s banged him around last Sunday. He gave up three home runs Friday night and things could have been worse for him if Francisco Lindor hadn’t made a honey of a play at short, holding the ball on a play when he had no chance at first and waiting for Orlando Arcia to round third, before the Mets got Arcia in a rundown.

The Mets needed a deGrom Day in Atlanta. They got just another day at the office instead. They got good from him on a night when they needed him to be great. Not a Moneyball start. We know the Yankees have to spend whatever they need to spend to keep Judge. But how high do the Mets go for deGrom when the season is over? He can make the decision easy for them the rest of the way. He just hasn’t yet.

JUDGE CLASSES UP THE STADIUM, RUSH GETS BEST OF DANIEL & SALEH NEEDS TO WIN SOME GAMES …

The enduring beauty of what Aaron Judge did, as we all watched him hit these home run marks, is the grace he brought to the whole thing.

Old-Yankee grace.

For these handful of September days in 2022, the Yankees truly felt like the Yankees again.

Judge brings class to the whole thing the way Derek Jeter did.

There are always reasons why Daniel Jones doesn’t take the Giants down the field to win the game when the Giants lose the game in the end.

But that is the job, no matter how much you get chased around or banged around.

It was the great Ernie Accorsi who once said this about quarterbacks:

“You’re never better than they are.”

That isn’t true one hundred percent of the time, but it is true most of the time.

The reality of what we saw on Monday night, as much as the Cowboys got after Jones, was this:

In the end, he was no better than a Cowboys backup named Cooper Rush.

Mike Breen is not only my friend, but he is one of the nicest people to ever have a big job in this business.

You probably know by now that the home belonging to him and his wife Rosanne in Manhasset burned down last Sunday while they were on a vacation trip to northern California.

Nobody was in the house when it happened, but they lost all of their possessions, so many treasures that honored and remembered the life of their family.

And the touchstones of Mike’s life in a Hall of Fame broadcasting career.

So this was an exceptionally bad thing happening to really good people.

But you know what will be the best tonic for him over the next few weeks, and into the basketball season?

It will be hearing him call Knicks game again, before he is doing the same for NBA games on ESPN and ABC.

It will be hearing him yell “Bang!” again when somebody makes a big shot.

You know, I probably wasn’t as excited about Derrick Rose’s weight loss as I should have been.

My friend Barry Stanton is right:

What has happened to Tua over the past couple of weeks should scare everybody at every level of football.

Robert Saleh needs to win some games.

Eduardo Escobar went through a lot in his first season in New York, and there was so much of a shout for Buck Showalter to put him on the bench and leave him there.

But Buck hung with him.

And at the end of that, Escobar rewarded his manager by having the kind of September he’s having.

Is Patrick Reed going to file a lawsuit every time somebody on television hurts his feelings?

Oh man, you are going to love Ian Rankin’s new Rebus novel, “A Heart Full of Tombstones” when the book is in stores later this month.

I’ve mentioned this before, but Dylan McDermott, who graduated Fordham when Breen did, is a total star on “FBI: Most Wanted” on Tuesday nights.

If you haven’t seen Jon Hamm and John Slattery in “Confess, Fletch,” you ought to, first thing.

Boston sports hasn’t exactly been a lot of laughs lately, has it?

OK, it’s October now.

Do you know who your Yankee closer is?

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Source: Berkshire mont

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