July 20, 2019

Mets Go Cold, but Noah Syndergaard Brings Heat Over Scheduling

Mets Go Cold, but Noah Syndergaard Brings Heat Over Scheduling

Once the standing ovation for Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom died down and the flyover of New York Police Department helicopters passed before the Mets’ home opener began on Thursday afternoon, Noah Syndergaard, the Mets’ second starter, took to the mound at Citi Field.

DeGrom, who had a career-high 14 strikeouts the previous night, is the toughest act to follow in the majors at the moment, but Syndergaard came out firing. He started the Nationals off with a 98-miles-per-hour fastball, and managed to impress himself with the break of his curveball in the second inning.

Still, he struggled to reach his optimal velocity with his slider and stumbled enough times — two walks, a wild pitch and a home run — to take the loss in a 4-0 defeat to the Washington Nationals in front of 44,424 fans, the second-largest crowd in Citi Field history.

Syndergaard was still feeling fiery after the game, explaining that although he was well-rested because he had flown home a day early from the team’s road trip to Miami, his teammates were playing on four hours of sleep because of a tight turnaround from a Wednesday evening game in Florida.

“I don’t think we were in the proper situation to win a ballgame based on the rest of the guys’ sleep and travel,” Syndergaard said as he stood in front of his locker.

The Mets’ charter flight did not land in New York until after 2 a.m. Thursday, and players said that they had not checked into hotels or returned to their apartments until 3 a.m. They reported to Citi Field at 10 a.m.

Complicating the itinerary was the fact that two players were informed that they needed to provide a urine sample for a drug test after Wednesday night’s game. First baseman Dominic Smith was one of the players selected for the test, but was unable to produce a sample for 40 minutes, further delaying the team’s departure.

“That’s still not an excuse,” Smith said. “We’re professionals at the end of the day.”

But it still bothered Syndergaard. While the Marlins had dictated the start of their home game on Wednesday, the Mets could have elected to host their home opener later than 1:10 p.m. Syndergaard noted that a night start would have been more preferable — the second time he had voiced displeasure over the team’s scheduling in recent weeks.

Coming out of spring training, Syndergaard complained about the team’s travel from Sarasota, Fla., to Syracuse for a workout in front of fans of the team’s new Class AAA affiliate in Central New York. At the time, Syndergaard called the extra trip “not a smart one” and added that he didn’t “think that’s conducive for winning ball games.”

Before the Thursday afternoon’s game, Mets Manager Mickey Callaway maintained that his team could “ride the wave of adrenaline” that came with playing in front of the home crowd for the first time this year.

If they did, it did not last long. In the top of the second inning, Syndergaard walked Juan Soto on five pitches and then issued another free pass to first baseman Ryan Zimmerman on four pitches. Syndergaard then bounced a wild pitch past catcher Wilson Ramos, advancing both runners one base. Syndergaard struck out Yan Gomes before the Mets’ pitching coach, Dave Eiland, paid Syndergaard a visit on the mound, but then shortstop Wilmer Difo managed a sacrifice bunt that drove in Soto, who slid across home plate for the 1-0 lead.

Still, Syndergaard recovered and carried a no-hit bid into the sixth inning. But Nationals center fielder Victor Robles broke it up when he led off with a home run to left — the second time that Robles had taken Syndergaard deep this season, having done the same a week earlier at Nationals Park.

The Mets were never able to counter at the plate. Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg did not surrender a hit until the fifth, when Ramos lined a single to left field. Callaway noted that his hitters were kept “off kilter.”

That included left fielder Brandon Nimmo, who has struggled more than any other Met this season. He has failed to find his rhythm at the plate so far, and was 0 for 3 on Thursday. He is batting .087, and he noted that while the lack of sleep did not help, he also felt that he was missing something mechanically. He planned to watch video on Friday, a day off, before returning to the batting cages before Saturday’s game against the Nationals.

“I think we missed a lot of good pitches,” he said. “I think we just missed mistakes. Any time you do that, it doesn’t matter who you are facing.”

As players departed the clubhouse afterward, Smith stood at his locker. He expressed the sentiment that many of the players shared.

“It’s been a long 12, 13 hours,” he said. “The good thing is that we get an off day tomorrow. We’ll go from there.”

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