Pitching with a purpose, Noah Syndergaard delivered the most important win of his life in Game 3
It started out with a message and a purpose, and ended with utter scintillation from a right-hander from Mansfield, Texas on Friday night at Citi Field.
From the very first pitch, it was clear Noah Syndergaard intended to pitch with a purpose. He buzzed Alcides Escobar with his patented Texas heat which flew by his face and knocked him down, sending the Royals bench into a stir.
But then, Syndergaard bent a breaking ball in for strike one, clearly telling the Royals he wasn’t going to be tormented in the same manner his pitching mates in both Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom were in Games 1 and 2 of this World Series.
And it helped deliver the biggest win of his life.
“My first words I said to [Travis d’Arnaud] when we walked in the clubhouse today was, ‘How do you feel about high and tight for the first pitch and then a curveball for the second one?'” Syndergaard said. “So I feel like it really made a statement to start the game off that you guys can’t dig in and get too aggressive because I’ll come in there.”
He upset Mike Moustakas immediately, who clearly went on a profane-laced rant from the bench.
“I think the whole team was pretty upset,” Moustakas said after the game. “The first pitch of the game goes whizzing by the leadoff man’s head. Whatever it was, that’s what happened. I don’t think I was the only one upset in the dugout. All 25 guys in the dugout were pretty fired up.”
But the only intent was for Syndergaard to establish his own mound presence and deliver in what was an absolute must-win for the Mets as they entered play trailing the Royals 2-0 in the World Series.
“My intent on that pitch was to make them uncomfortable,” Syndergaard said, “and I feel like I did just that. I know that from the past, I think, every postseason game that Escobar has played in he’s swung at the first-pitch fastball, and I didn’t think he would want to swing at that one.”
And deliver Syndergaard did, although it wasn’t pretty over the first two innings as the Royals didn’t back down, notching three runs on six hits during that span.
But Syndergaard didn’t relent, either. He was struggling to locate his pitches for sure, but he maintained trust in his fastball and didn’t deviate from the game plan he set coming into Game 3, which was to rely on his fastball, only to offset it by his curve ball and change-up.
Or, what made him so successful in a remarkable rookie campaign which began on a cool night at Wrigley Field nearly six months ago.
And in the third inning, Syndergaard settled down, began throwing his scintillating fastball down in the zone and bending his unreal breaking pitch on the corners. That led to 12 straight Royals being retired into the sixth inning, and by then, the Mets had already built a 5-3 lead and were well on their way towards changing the tone in the World Series.
But Syndergaard should be credited with that change in direction. He decided it was time to make a statement after the Royals had bled the Mets to death in two straight games. He was able to move the ball in and out, up and down, and even when he found himself in trouble in the first, second and sixth innings, he did not deviate from his objective and game plan.
And that’s the primary reason for his and the team’s success in a vital win on Friday night.
“You’ve got to make adjustments,” Collins said. “And throughout the game all of a sudden, Noah started making some adjustments, throwing strikes with his off-speed stuff, where he could get strike one or get them in counts where they’re not sure, and making pitches with your fastball. I don’t think they could just sit on one pitch from the third inning on. He really settled down.”
Syndergaard’s ability to adjust and master the Royals on Friday is a testament to his pitching maturity and intelligence. He is a strike thrower, and he knows the Royals murder strikes. But at the same time, Syndergaard knows he couldn’t change what has made him so good. He stayed aggressive, challenged the Royals with his fastball, and while he allowed seven hits to that relentless offense, he managed eight swings and misses on 56 fastballs.
Harvey and deGrom managed just two swings and misses on 83 fastballs between them between Games 1 and 2.
But that’s the thing. There’s a 95 mph fastball, but then there are the 95-100 mph fastballs the Mets starting rotation brings. They’re dynamic, and with their ability to throw strikes with their entire arsenals, they have the appearance of being that much more explosive.
The proof was in the pudding with Syndergaard in Game 3. If the Mets starters trust their fastballs – or what got them here to begin with – they have a real good shot at winning the World Series.