Whether he’s at home or on the road, Noah Syndergaard must find his groove again
In an effort to solve some of Noah Syndergaard’s struggles on the road, the Mets altered his pre-game routine to start a little later so there was a smaller gap between the conclusion of his bullpen session and starting the bottom of the first inning.
Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to have the impact Dan Warthen and the rest of the coaching staff would have liked.
Syndergaard allowed the first three Orioles to reach base in the first inning. Fortunately, he fanned Chris Davis with the bases loaded and nobody out, and then he induced an inning ending 4-4-3 double play to stop the threat.
But it was a precursor to what ultimately was another bumpy ride for the 22-year-old right-hander. He began to settle down after that rough first inning. He retired eight in a row between the strikeout of Davis in the first and the bottom of the third inning, but Adam Jones led off the fourth with a double. He would come around to score on an RBI single by Steve Clevenger.
He then stranded Manny Machado at second base in the fifth inning, but ran into trouble in the sixth inning after allowing a leadoff double to Davis and a two-run home run to Jonathan Schoop on a hanging breaking ball on the inner half to tie the game at three a piece.
Despite the rough ride, Syndergaard was generally pleased with what he felt was a positive step for him on Wednesday night.
“I feel like, with the exception of the first inning, it was a pretty solid performance, with the exception of that one mistake in the sixth inning,” Syndergaard explained after the game. “A lot of people have been concerned about my performances on the road. I feel like this was a step in the right direction, as far as being more comfortable out there.”
It was a strange night for Syndergaard. Often times, his stuff looked electric, and he appeared to have complete command of his fastball, curve and change-up. He had some excellent movement on his curveball in particular, especially late movement just before it it entered the strike zone.
But then there were times he was just erratic and became one-pitch happy. Sometimes, it was too many fastballs in succession, others – as was the case to Schoop the third time he faced him – he was throwing too many breaking balls in succession.
It led to a lot of counts where he fell behind, and a lot of pitches under duress as a result, which is the most inefficient way to build a pitch count.
Syndergaard is now winless with a 5.05 ERA in nine starts away from Citi Field.
It’s simple enough to point the finger at a comfort issue away from Flushing. Indeed, he has been dominant for the most part at Citi Field Field, and less effective away from Citi Field.
But when examining this start compared to his start at home last week against the Rockies, they largely featured very similar problems with erratic and inconsistent pitching, trusting his stuff, pitch selection and pitching to the strength of the game.
And this is the third start in a row he’s had these problems, dating back to August 8 against the Rays, and these are all things he’s acknowledged after his recent starts.
Besides, he was great in his start in Los Angeles against the Dodgers, his start in St. Louis against the Cardinals, and while he had to battle, he was effective in his start in Washington against the Nationals.
There could be a number of reasons for his recent struggles.
He’s thrown more innings this season than he has in any other season as a pro. So, he could be hitting a wall at what really is an inopportune time for the club. That’s not clear, but there’s no debating he’s in uncharted territory in his career. If it is the case, hopefully he can rediscover that incredible rhythm he had in May, June and July.
In addition, Syndergaard’s still just 22-years-old. He’s still learning, still adjusting, still trying to understand how to not just be effective for short stretches, but be effective for long stretches as well. The word is out about Syndergaard, and the league has begun to adjust to him. He now has to adjust back.
Whether he’s home or on the road doesn’t matter as much as him maintaining the approach which got him here and made him so successful once he got here start after start, regardless of where he’s pitching.
It’s just a matter of time for the young fireballer. Once he masters that part, he can warm up whenever he wants on the road, because he’s going to be among the elite pitchers in the game when it all clicks for him.