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Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer depart starts with injuries

Jacob deGrom was in the midst of another gem on Friday night when he departed his start against San Diego.
Jacob deGrom was in the midst of another gem on Friday night when he departed his start against San Diego.Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom was pulled after six scoreless innings of a 3-2 victory over San Diego on Friday night with right flexor tendonitis, a troubling diagnosis for the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner amid a historically dominant season.

DeGrom faced the minimum against the Padres and had thrown just 80 pitches before being lifted. Manager Luis Rojas met with deGrom in the dugout after the sixth and shook his hand, signaling his night was done.

“I’m not too concerned about it,” deGrom told reporters. “I’ve had a couple elbow issues before, and I know what that feels like. So my level of concern is not too high.”

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DeGrom had a no-hitter until Wil Myers beat the shift with a weak grounder in the fifth. Myers was caught stealing by catcher James McCann a few pitches later.

He was the only runner to reach against deGrom, who struck out 10. New York has been limiting his workload since an injured list stint in May with right side tightness.

DeGrom also had a two-run single, giving him five RBIs this season, compared to four earned runs allowed. His 0.56 ERA is the lowest ever by a pitcher through 10 starts, just ahead of Juan Marichal’s 0.59 in 1966.

Meanwhile, Nationals ace Max Scherzer exited with what he termed a “groin tweak” after throwing just 12 pitches in what became a 1-0 loss to San Francisco.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner got Giants leadoff hitter LaMonte Wade Jr. to fly out for the first out of the game. Brandon Belt was up next and Nationals manager Dave Martinez and trainer Paul Lessard went out to the mound after Scherzer threw a 96 mph fastball that made the count 3-2.

Scherzer got down and squatted, then stretched from side to side before throwing one pitch in front of Martinez and Lessard. Scherzer left after that warmup throw.

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The 36-year-old said an MRI revealed the injury is not a muscle strain, and that he’s day-to-day.

Mets boss refutes star Pete Alonso’s ‘conspiracy’ charge about manipulated baseballs

Mets acting general manager Zack Scott refuted New York star Pete Alonso’s charge that Major League Baseball has been manipulating baseballs to hurt potential free agents, saying changes to the ball would have “no influence on how players are valued or paid.”

Asked on Wednesday about the simmering debate over pitchers’ use of foreign substances, Alonso claimed MLB intentionally juiced baseballs before star pitchers like Gerrit Cole hit the open market, then deadened the ball this season with a talented group of hitters ready to become free agents.

“I didn’t know Pete was a conspiracy theorist,” Scott said with a laugh.

The league did not comment on Alonso’s charge.

Scott doesn’t think the theory holds up, saying front offices and their analytics teams are smart enough to normalize performances in changing offensive environments.

“The way teams value and evaluate performance is relative to levels, so we’re not going to be fooled by offense is way up or way down,” he said. “We’re going to look at players about relative to how the league is playing. So it would have no influence on how players are valued or paid.”

MLB informed teams in February that it planned to slightly deaden the baseballs for the 2021 season following a years-long surge in home runs. In 2019, 3.6 percent of plate appearances ended in a homer, a number that has dropped to 3.1 percent this year.

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Asked about the sticky substance debate, Scott said the uncertainty over future enforcement is presenting challenges for scouts and analysts. The league is expected to begin punishing pitchers soon — a drastic, midseason change after generations of looking the other way on all but the most egregious of offenders.

“It’s challenging,” Scott said. “We don’t really know what guys are doing, even inside our own organization versus outside, or if their doing anything at all.”

The first-year GM said it doesn’t matter to him what MLB decides, as long as it’s clear and enforceable.

“We’re really just talking about enforcement,” he said. “It’s always been on the books that you’re not supposed to put stuff on baseball, so it’s really how they communicate with the umpires and what the expectations are. And I think, to be fair to the umpires, there needs to be clarity as well.”

Aaron Civale becomes AL’s first to nine wins

Northeastern product Aaron Civale gave up a single to start the game before dominating Seattle’s light-hitting lineup for eight innings, leading Cleveland past the Mariners, 7-0, and becoming the first American League pitcher with nine wins. The right-handed Civale (9-2) struck out a career-high 11 and retired 22 in a row after loading the bases in the first. Blake Parker worked the ninth to complete the two-hitter. Also Friday, Seattle reliever Kendall Graveman, out since May 23, was activated from the COVID-19 injured list. The 30-year-old, who has not allowed a run in 16⅔ innings, spent two weeks quarantined in San Diego . . . Ryan Yarbrough (4-3) followed up a rare Tampa Bay complete game with six solid innings and the Rays became the first team to reach 40 wins this season, beating Baltimore, 4-2. Brandon Lowe homered for the Rays, who are 21-5 since May 13 . . . Milwaukee third baseman Travis Shaw likely won’t return until August after dislocating his left shoulder diving for a ground ball Wednesday at Cincinnati. Brewers manager Craig Counsell said the initial plan, on doctors’ suggestion, is to see whether Shaw can recover without needing surgery. The 31-year-old is batting .191 with six homers and 28 RBIs in 56 games . . . Two additional teams have been able to relax coronavirus protocols after reaching the 85 percent vaccination threshold for players and other on-field personnel, raising the total to 22 of the 30 MLB clubs, but no additional teams were announced as being on track to reach the threshold. The commissioner’s office and the players’ association said 85.1 percent of Tier 1 individuals such as players, managers, coaches, trainers and support personnel had been partially or fully vaccinated, down 0.1 percent from the previous week, and 83.7 percent had been fully vaccinated, up 0.8 percent . . . Joc Pederson homered and drove in three runs, Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras went deep, and the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 8-5, in front of 35,112 — the first full capacity game at Wrigley Field since 2019. On what the Cubs called “Opening Day 2.0,” they fell behind, 5-1, before scoring three times in the fifth. Rizzo tied it at 5-all in the sixth with his drive to right against Daniel Ponce de Leon on the 14th pitch of the at-bat, the longest by a Cub to end in a homer since at least 1988. Pederson gave the Cubs a 7-5 lead in the seventh with a two-run double off the wall in right-center against Génesis Cabrera (1-2), and Craig Kimbrel retired all three batters in the ninth for his 16th save in 18 chances. The Cardinals lost for the seventh time in eight games and have fallen from first place to a 32-31 record.

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