New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom relished his return to the Citi Field mound Sunday.
"Stepping out there was a little bit emotional," deGrom told reporters after a 5-2 win over the Atlanta Braves. "A big ovation, kind of took a second, took it all in and then tried to focus."
The right-hander went 5.2 innings, allowing two earned runs on one hit and striking out 12 batters.
DeGrom made his long-awaited season debut Tuesday in a 5-1 road loss to the Washington Nationals. He had been out for more than a year because of forearm and elbow issues and then a stress reaction in his shoulder.
Despite his lengthy layoff, the two-time Cy Young winner has hardly missed a beat. Any fears he might have lost some velocity have been unfounded.
Some fans were left underwhelmed by New York's last-minute business ahead of the MLB trade deadline. General manager Billy Eppler opted for marginal upgrades instead of any transformative deals, adding Mychal Givens, Tyler Naquin, Daniel Vogelbach and Darin Ruf.
Getting a healthy deGrom back is far more impactful than any of those acquisitions. They now have perhaps the best starting pitcher in baseball again right in time for the stretch run.
The Mets have the best World Series odds (16.9 percent) of any team on FanGraphs, in part because manager Buck Showalter can lean on a playoff rotation of deGrom, Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt.
This year has been quite a contrast for the Mets.
Fans have gotten used to seeing deGrom shine on teams that fell short of expectations, as the Mets haven't made the playoffs since 2016. Now, they're on track to post the second-highest winning percentage in franchise history despite being without deGrom for the first few months of the season.
The 34-year-old will now get to have an active role in the Mets' pennant chase.