Jacob deGrom starting against a Low-A team sounds like a sadistic "What if?" thought experiment, but it was reality for the most unlucky minor league team in baseball on Thursday.
The Palm Beach Cardinals had the misfortune of facing the New York Mets ace on a rehab assignment, and it was about as bad as you could expect. A two-time Cy Young Award winner with a fastball averaging 98.9 mph and a changeup averaging 91.1 mph this year, deGrom was so far above the Palm Beach lineup's capabilities that all the team Twitter account could do was laugh.
And beg for help.
Per Baseball Reference, the average age of the Palm Beach Cardinals' hitters is 21.1, and the team was hitting a combined .219 entering Thursday. Meanwhile, MLB hitters have hit .128 against deGrom this season.
Here is how 2020 fifth-round pick L.J. Jones fared:
The team also didn't have much patience for people whose advice for hitting a 102 mph fastball was essentially "git gud."
deGrom's final line ended up being 3 innings, 0 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks and 8 strikeouts with 41 pitches. The lone baserunner reached thanks to an error at second base; otherwise it was three perfect innings with one ball put in play. deGrom's team for the night, the St. Lucie Mets, eventually won 7-0.
The Cardinals at least got an apology from the team that sicced deGrom on them, but it still wasn't happy. Especially because it had to face a rehabbing Noah Syndergaard the previous night.
The starting pitcher for the Cardinals enjoyed the night much more than his teammates, though, because how often does a Low-A pitcher get a chance to see the most dominant pitcher in baseball go to work?
deGrom has been out since May 9 with back tightness, but is now nearing a return for the 20-17 Mets. Before his injury, he held a league-best 0.68 ERA in 40 innings with 65 strikeouts.
Wednesday represented deGrom's first chance to face live hitters, and we'll see if he requires a second. Fortunately, it probably won't be against the Cardinals.