Syndergaard honors Adenhart in Halos debut

Thor becomes first Angel to wear No. 34 since 2009

April 10th, 2022

ANAHEIM -- As a native Texan, Noah Syndergaard said he chose the No. 34 when he broke into the Majors with the Mets to honor Nolan Ryan, his favorite pitcher growing up.

But when Syndergaard signed with the Angels over the offseason, it took on a new meaning, as he became the first Angels player to wear No. 34 since Nick Adenhart’s tragic death in 2009. It was only fitting that Syndergaard made his Halos debut on the 13th anniversary of Adenhart’s passing on Saturday and turned in a strong outing in a 2-0 win over the Astros at Angel Stadium.

So while Syndergaard was pleased to throw 5 1/3 innings in his longest outing since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2020, and pick up his first win since Sept. 2, 2019, he was even happier to honor Adenhart, who pitched with the Angels from 2008-09 before he was killed by a drunk driver just hours after throwing six scoreless innings against the A's in his first start of the season in '09.

“The whole day, I just had goosebumps because it was the 13th anniversary of Adenhart being tragically taken away from us,” Syndergaard said. “I felt like an angel was by my side tonight. That was really special to me. A number is part of our identity. I chose No. 34 because I was a huge Nolan Ryan fan, but now, it kind of means something a little bit different to me. I'm trying to lift up Nick's name and spread awareness."

It wasn't quite a vintage Syndergaard performance, with the 100-mph velocity and plethora of strikeouts, but the right-hander was impressive and efficient in his Angels debut.

Syndergaard, who was limited to just two innings with the Mets last year, gave up two hits and two walks and struck out one. It's the fewest strikeouts he's had in an outing of more than one inning in his career, but he made up for it by inducing 11 ground-ball outs, including a double play off the bat of Jose Altuve in the third inning.

“Pre-surgery you might've seen a mile per hour or two more, but I still think that's coming back,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “Otherwise, the same. He's a strike-thrower. He got ground balls. I've always liked his changeup. So he's kind of the same version with maybe a click lower on the gun, but I think once he gets stretched out, you'll see it again."

The grounders helped Syndergaard turn in his longest outing since Sept. 29, 2019, when he went seven innings against the Braves. His fastball averaged a tick under 95 mph and he relied heavily on his changeup, throwing it 21 times and getting six swings and misses. Syndergaard was on a pitch count of 75-80 pitches and was removed from the game after walking Michael Brantley with one out in the sixth on his 76th pitch.

"The changeup felt really good and I was able to execute some quality pitches when I needed it,” Syndergaard said. “I got a lot of ground-ball outs. I felt really economical out there."

He outdueled fellow veteran Justin Verlander, who didn’t pitch last year because of his own Tommy John surgery in September 2020. Verlander went five innings and struck out seven, but gave up a solo homer to Jared Walsh in the second on a first-pitch fastball.

Astros manager Dusty Baker liked what he saw from Verlander in his return from injury, and he was equally impressed by Syndergaard as well.

“Early in the year, you’re not ready to hit breaking balls and changeups,” Baker said. “He threw a good game. He’s changed his format some. He was power before, but now he’s pitching. He shut us down, shut down a very good offense tonight.”

The Angels' revamped bullpen did its job after Syndergaard’s exit, as Aaron Loup threw an inning and Ryan Tepera followed with 1 2/3 frames before handing the ball over to closer Raisel Iglesias. Superstar Mike Trout also gave the Angels an insurance run with a solo shot in the eighth inning, which was his first homer since May 4, 2021.

Trout was quick to praise Syndergaard for the way he kept the Angels in the game.

“It was fun,” Trout said. “It’s fun to play behind him. He gets on the mound and throws strikes. He tries to get us back into the dugout as quickly as he can. He’s out there grinding, and it’s just fun to play with him.