LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Jacob deGrom was a bag of nerves as he sat in the locker room before Friday's Game One against the Los Angeles Dodgers but the New York Mets pitcher emerged a winner hours later after his first ever postseason start.
The long-haired 27-year-old outlasted his opposite number, three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, as he allowed just five hits in seven scoreless innings before New York wrapped up a 3-1 win at Dodger Stadium.
DeGrom, who pitched to a 14-8 record and a 2.60 ERA during the regular season, tied the Mets' record in the postseason with 13 strikeouts to give his team a much needed confidence boost in their best-of-five National League Division Series.
"To have him go out there against Clayton tonight and win the game is a huge lift for us," New York coach Terry Collins told reporters after his team's triumphant return to the postseason for the first time since 2006.
"Our guys, hopefully they get ready for tomorrow night. But this is a good start to a team that hadn't been in the postseason for a long time. We needed a confidence boost and Jake gave it to us."
Collins was delighted to see deGrom, an All-Star this season, settle into his pitching so well, especially against the array of Dodgers left-handers.
"He's such a good pitcher that you kind of got to let him get a feel for the game a little bit," he said. "I thought about the fourth and fifth inning, he started to settle in a lot better than he started the game.
"He was making better pitches. He was using his breaking ball a lot more effectively. We were concerned about his pitch count, but then he had a couple of easier innings. I said, 'I'm going to let him see if he can get us through seven (innings).'"
DeGrom retired the last 11 batters he faced and was elated after tying Tom Seaver's franchise mark of 13 strikeouts in a postseason game.
"My changeup was good tonight, and I threw a few strikeouts to the lefties, but also I was locating my fastball pretty good too," deGrom said of his performance. "So I think just trying to keep them off balance and get ahead.
"Before the game I was pretty nervous sitting in the locker room but once I got out there warming up, I kind of settled down. (The nerves) really went away after the first pitch I threw.
"We had a good game planned. We came up with one before ... and I tried to execute that to the best of my ability tonight."
Game Two will take place at Dodger Stadium on Saturday when the Mets will send nine-game winner Noah Syndergaard to the mound against the Dodgers and three-time All-Star Zach Greinke (19-3).
Editing by Amlan Chakraborty