While Syndergaard didn’t ge a decision in the Mets 6-0 win on Monday afternoon, and left the game after 86 pitches with a blisters on his middle finger and thumb, his performance was an encouraging sign for a rotation that must find a way to stay healthy all season long.
In a word, Syndergaard was dominant. The slider that worked so well for him last season was pure fire against Atlanta on Monday.
It took Thor only seven pitches to get through the first inning. He struck out Atlanta center fielder Ender Inciarte swinging on a fastball low and away in the dirt; got phenom Dansby Swanson to bounce back to him on two pitches for the second out, and got Freddie Freeman to fly out to end in the inning.
Thor’s slider kept breaking on hitters into the second inning. He fooled veteran slugger Matt Kemp on two straight changeups that had a sinking action to it, setting up the count to 1-2, before he got Kemp to softly bounce to second for the first out. Thor then came back to fan Nick Markakis with a couple of sinkers low and away to plow through that inning.
No matter the situation, the Atlanta Braves had no answer for Syndergaard, and that was just fine with the Mets, because they needed Thor to be at his best. Much like the Wild Card Game last October against San Francisco, Syndergaard found himself in a scoreless tug of war with another ace, this time in the form of Julio Teheran.
Teheran flustered the Mets lefty-dominated lineup. While Teheran threw more pitches than Syndergaard, he still kept the Mets off the scoreboard for six innings, leaving many to wonder if this game was going to be a re-run of that infamous night in early October last year.
But give Syndergaard credit, he again showed why the pressure moment is where he is at his best. In the fourth inning, he surrendered a one-out triple to Freeman that the slugger just barely missed a home run on. Undeterred, Syndergaard struck out Matt Kemp swinging on that slider on just four pitches.
Next, the Mets ace came back from 3-1 count deficit to strike out Markakis to strand Freeman at third and preserve the scoreless tie.
Fast-forward to the sixth inning, the apparent blisters that burst on Syndergaard’s pitching hand started to take its effect. Even on the radio, Mets play-by-play voice Howie Rose noted that Syndergaard looked off his game slightly in the sixth.
With one out, Syndergaard surrendered back-to-back singles to Swanson and Freeman to set up first and third for Kemp and Markakis.
Yet, the big right-hander found a way out of a tight jam inspite of it all. He got Kemp to foul off the first two pitches to start the count at 0-2. After missing with a fastball on 1-2, Syndergaard came back to strike out Kemp swinging for the second out.
Now against Markakis, Syndergaard again fell behind the former Oriole, this time 3-0. Thor toughened up. He came back thanks to a foul strike and a swing and miss to bring the count full at 3-2. Two pitches later, Syndergaard jammed Markakis on a fly ball to a waiting Yoenis Cespedes in left to end the threat.
Syndergaard’s final line: six innings, five hits, no runs, no walks, seven strikeouts. Pure fire!
All in all it was a brilliant effort by Syndergaard. A combination of power pitching, his fastball toped 100 mph on multiple occasions, and guile in the sixth inning gave the Mets the ultimate chance to win the game.
The only concern of course is the blister. Word is Syndergaard will be pushed back a day for his next start, but the Mets don’t foresee any issues moving forward.
If we can gleam anything from this opening performance it is how important Syndergaard and the rest of this starting rotation will be to the Mets success this season.
The Mets offense left plenty of unanswered questions on the field today, needing a total implosion by the Braves bullpen in order to score runs. So it is fair to say the Mets needed Noah Syndergaard to brilliant to get through today. He was. Now they need him to stay healthy and be brilliant every fifth day moving forward.