Noah Syndergaard’s two bad pitches defined his outing and the game for the Mets
In large measure, Noah Syndergaard has rebounded nicely after being skipped in the rotation after his start on August 30 against the Red Sox.
And in his start on Saturday against the Yankees, Syndergaard delivered six innings for the Mets, for the most part looking like the Syndergaard the Mets will be relying on as a member of their rotation come October, as Terry Collins informally announced would be the case on Saturday afternoon.
But Syndergaard made two mistakes on Saturday against the Yankees, and unfortunately they served to define not only his outing but the game for the Mets in general.
Before retiring a batter in the game, Syndergaard allowed a three-run home run to former Met Carlos Beltran, who pulled an 0-2 fastball at 99 mph over the middle of the plate into the Pepsi Porch in right field to give the Yankees an instant 3-0 lead and knock the wind right out of the Mets and the flushing faithful.
The pitch was too good for an 0-2 pitch despite the velocity, although Syndergaard tried to come up in the zone with the pitch. Instead, it was right over the plate.
And Beltran crushed it.
Pitch selection was also a problem for Syndergaard in that first inning. He was relying too much on his fastball instead of going to his secondary pitches. He made two decent pitches to both Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, but due to the consistent speed they were able to muscle them for soft singles, setting up Beltran’s at-bat.
In fact he only threw one change-up and no curveballs to any of the first three batters he faced.
Syndergaard knows that was a mistake on his part.
“I think I threw like 98 percent fastballs in the first,” Syndergaard explained. “There is always something to learn with every outing.”
Terry Collins wasn’t as concerned with the pitch selection as he was about the pitch execution to Beltran in particular.
“He can’t be afraid to throw a pitch that’s not necessarily a strike,” Collins said. “If you miss, you have to miss out of the strike zone a bit more, especially if you’re up 0-2.”
Kevin Plawecki said after the game he called for the fastball, but wanted it up above the belt, figuring Beltran couldn’t catch up with an upper-90s fastball high.
But after that, Syndergaard was splendid into the sixth inning. He retired ten batters in a row through the first four innings before allowing a leadoff triple to Dustin Ackley in the fifth inning. He managed to escape that trouble unscathed.
In the sixth inning, Syndergaard allowed a one-out single to Beltran, but Brian McCann followed with a long two-run home run on a 3-1 fastball.
That made it 5-0, and the Mets mounted next to no threat against Michael Pineda and the six Yankee relievers on Saturday.
While Collins was disappointed with Syndergaard’s two mistakes, he felt the right-hander had an excellent outing.
“He made two bad pitches. You can’t make mistakes to real good hitters, and he did,” said Collins. “But otherwise I thought he was outstanding, threw the ball very well. Very impressed.”
Syndergaard was also otherwise pleased with his performance.
“It was all about execution today,” Syndergaard said after the loss. “I feel like the results didn’t necessarily indicate how well I threw. That was frustrating,”
First inning runs have been a problem for Syndergaard throughout the year. He has now allowed 14 runs in the first inning this season, pitching to a 5.73 ERA in that frame in the process.
In addition, Syndergaard has staggered in the sixth inning of his outings in general as well. He has allowed 16 runs in the sixth inning in 17 starts.
13 of the 17 home runs Syndergaard has allowed have come in the first and sixth innings as well.
It’s a shame when an outing can be defined by two bad pitches for any pitcher. That was the case for Masahiro Tanaka on Friday for the Yankees as it was the case for Syndergaard on Saturday.
But as he said, it was about his pitch execution in those two instances. Sure, he could have chosen to use his curveball against Beltran and shaken off Plawecki, especially in an 0-2 count and not needing to throw a strike at that moment. At the same time, if the pitch was where it was called for, he might have gotten Beltran anyway and begun to work his way out of the jam.
It was a more difficult circumstance against McCann considering he had fallen behind in the count, and he needed to come in and challenge him. But again, it was about the location of the pitch. In this case, his fastball bled over the middle of the plate instead of where it was called for, and a home run hitter did what he was supposed to do with that pitch.
But on the bright side, Syndergaard was crisp, efficient, had good tempo, and dominated the Yankees in the middle innings in large measure.
In other words, short of two mistakes, Syndergaard is right where he needs to be heading into what he hopes is a successful postseason run, if he has learned the lesson he needed to from Saturday’s start.
That’s what the Mets are hoping for.