Mets' deGrom goes for 15th win vs. Braves

ATLANTA -- After missing the final month of 2016, Jacob deGrom's goal for 2017 was to pitch 200 innings.

The New York Mets' lone projected starter healthy all season is nearing that milestone and rivaling the success he had in 2015 before elbow issues.

DeGrom (14-9, 3.63 ERA) has worked 188 1/3 innings going into his 30th start of the season Saturday night against the Atlanta Braves and has struck out 221 -- second in the National League.

DeGrom will be matched against veteran knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (9-9, 4.28 ERA) and both pitchers have fared well against the opponent.

Dickey, who won the National League Cy Young Award for the Mets in 2012, is 4-0 with a 2.97 ERA against his former team, including two victories this year.

DeGrom is 4-3 with a 2.29 ERA against the Braves, beating them once this season.

DeGrom, who had surgery to reposition the ulnar nerve on his right elbow last September, won eight straight starts during a stretch in June and July, putting himself in Cy Young Award consideration.

The 29-year-old right-hander has gone 2-6 since, though, and gave up a career-worst nine runs (six earned) against the Philadelphia Phillies in 3 2/3 innings on Sept. 5 before bouncing back against the Cincinnati Reds last Sunday.

DeGrom struck out 10 in six innings against the Reds in a no-decision, getting his 10th double-figure strikeout game of the season. Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden are the only other Mets to reach double figures, with Dwight Gooden doing it a record 15 times in 1984.

The meltdown against the Phillies still stuck with deGrom, though.

"No excuses. I was just terrible," deGrom said.

"Anytime Jake's pitching and he loses it, it's a surprise," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Dickey is coming off two rough outings, both at home. He gave up seven runs (six earned) in 4 1/3 innings against the Texas Rangers and then five runs in five innings against the Miami Marlins.

Dickey's biggest failing at home has been homers. He has surrendered 16 at SunTrust Park compared with eight on the road.

"I think it's just the ebb and flow of the knuckleball pretty much," Braves manager Brian Snitker said of the discrepancy, dismissing the ballpark factor. "Some days it's better than others."

The Mets still hope to get Noah Syndergaard in a game before the end of the season and that could happen soon.

Syndergaard, out since the beginning of May because of a partial tear of his right lat muscle, threw at full speed in a bullpen side session Thursday.

"We'll see how he is and then make the next step, whether it's another bullpen or use him in a game," Collins said.

Syndergaard, a 14-game winner with a 2.60 ERA and 218 strikeouts in 2016, was 1-2 with a 3.29 ERA in five games before the injury and made two rehab starts in early September before the minor league season came to an end for Mets farm teams.

The manager was asked if Syndergaard might make his return in a relief role.

"I don't know, but we would limit the workload," Collins said. "Make no mistake, when he pitches, there's not going to be a lot of pitches thrown. This is to make sure he's OK."
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