NEW YORK -- The schedule gave the New York Mets two off days sandwiched around just two games this week, but it sure does feel like the Mets got a lot accomplished.
Tuesday was about Wilmer Flores and reestablishing some confidence in a lineup that was shut out twice over the weekend. Wednesday was about Jacob deGrom and winning back-to-back games for the first time in nearly two weeks.
The Mets did all that and more in a two-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles, finishing it off with deGrom's impressive 5-1 win on Wednesday. Dilson Herrera finally had a big night at the plate, and Curtis Granderson finally hit a home run at Citi Field, but this game mostly mattered to the Mets because their reigning National League Rookie of the Year once again looked like himself.
There was never the doubt about deGrom that still exists about Flores, but if the Mets really have a chance to win this season, it will be because their starting pitchers give it to them.
"We're going to ride our pitching," manager Terry Collins said Wednesday night.
They hadn't been able to ride deGrom in his past two starts, when he gave up 11 runs (nine of them earned) in 10 1/3 innings. Of greater concern to Collins, deGrom seemed to discard his changeup almost entirely in last Thursday's loss to the Washington Nationals, throwing it only five times in 93 pitches.
"He's got a pretty good fastball, we all know that," Collins said. "But you can't live and die with the fastball -- unless you're Bartolo [Colon]."
DeGrom told his manager that he agreed, but it still wasn't until his 13th pitch of the night Wednesday that he broke out the changeup for the first time. He threw it on a 3-and-2 count to the dangerous Adam Jones, and got Jones to swing over it for the final out of the first inning.
"That kind of established it for the rest of the game," catcher Kevin Plawecki said.
DeGrom didn't have a trouble-free night, but he went seven innings and allowed just one run on six hits, with one walk and nine strikeouts. It was the kind of game the Mets came to expect from him last season, and in his first three starts of 2015.
Because deGrom has had so much success, it's easy to forget that Wednesday's start was just his 28th in the major leagues. At this time last year, he was still pitching at Triple-A Las Vegas and wasn't even first on the list of pitchers ready to join the Mets' rotation.
He's an important part of that rotation now, counted on for wins like Wednesday's.
"Tonight, we needed him," Collins said. "And he stepped up."
DeGrom threw the changeup 11 times in 105 pitches against the Orioles, using it about as often as he did last year. His biggest out of the night actually came on a slider, and not even a very good slider, as he put it.
It was the fifth inning, and the Orioles already had scored what turned out to be their only run, cutting the Mets' lead to 3-1. DeGrom had just walked Jones to load the bases, and he fell behind 2-and-0 to Chris Davis. DeGrom stayed fastball-slider to Davis, working back to 3-and-2 before throwing the slider that Davis swung through to end the threat.
Herrera, who drove in the Mets' first run and played a part in the rally that made it 3-0, hit a two-run home run in the sixth inning to extend the lead to 5-1. The rookie second baseman, summoned last week from Las Vegas but 1-for-13 before Wednesday, had a three-hit night.
That was big, but what deGrom did was significantly bigger. The Mets really do want to ride their pitching, and once again Wednesday, deGrom gave them a chance to do it.