SAN FRANCISCO -- The scouts in attendance for Noah Syndergaard vs. Madison Bumgarner on Thursday night saw exactly what their bosses hoped they might see. Both pitchers were brilliant, proving why they are two of the league’s most sought-after commodities less than two weeks shy of the July 31 Trade Deadline.
Bumgarner was simply more efficient, out-pitching Syndergaard -- as he did in the 2016 National League Wild Card Game -- in a 3-2 Mets loss to the Giants in 16 innings at Oracle Park.
Not that Syndergaard had much to regret. Twice, he allowed leadoff triples, to Alex Dickerson in the second inning and Mike Yastrzemski in the seventh. On both occasions, he emerged unscathed, relying on a fastball that reached triple digits and averaged more than 98 mph.
“I made three mistakes in that last inning,” Mazza said, “and they took advantage of every single one.”
That Mazza was even in the game at that point was a matter of circumstance. Out of relievers because Jacob Rhame was serving a one-game suspension, the Mets had no choice but to rely on Mazza, who had thrown 34 pitches the previous day. So desperate were the Mets that had the game gone significantly longer, manager Mickey Callaway said, J.D. Davis would have pitched and Jacob deGrom would have replaced him in left field.
The Giants ensured that never happened, erasing Alonso’s late homer with four hits of their own in the 16th.
“It’s tough,” Alonso said. “We fought all the way through. It’s unfortunate that we came up on the losing end of it.”
By that time, both Syndergaard and Bumgarner had long since received no-decisions in what were essentially Trade Deadline auditions. While both pitched well, their reactions were quite different: Bumgarner offered some postgame fire, responding to a Deadline question by snapping that he’s “here to win games for this team.” Syndergaard, by contrast, bolted the clubhouse without talking.
“Syndergaard did a great job of pitching out of some jams early,” Callaway said. “Their guys did, too.”
Full disclosure: A trade of Syndergaard is still unlikely, as general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has said publicly. But as long as Syndergaard is stringing up zeros, National League teams are going to come calling, curious what it might take to acquire the fireballer.
In what has been his worst season since breaking into the Major Leagues in 2015, Syndergaard at least appears to be turning a corner. He’s allowed three runs in 14 innings since the All-Star break, striking out 17 batters and walking just one. Since entering May with a 6.35 ERA, he’s pitched to a 3.57 mark in 13 starts. That includes Thursday, when Syndergaard evenly distributed his four-seam fastballs, sinkers and sliders, giving the Giants a steady dose of everything hard. While he couldn’t match Bumgarner’s effectiveness in the box score, Syndergaard showcased swing-and-miss stuff as elite as any in baseball.
Bidders, surely, will see that and name their price, though the Mets remain unlikely to trade Syndergaard for three reasons. One, if they have even an outside shot at making the playoffs -- they entered Thursday’s play with an 8.7 percent chance, according to FanGraphs projections -- they’ll need Syndergaard to realize that potential. Two, the Mets would have a difficult time filling out their 2020 rotation without Syndergaard, especially considering Jason Vargas is as good as out the door. Cost-efficient starters are not easy to find. Three, the Mets would be selling low on Syndergaard despite his recent mini-resurgence.
Remember, this is a pitcher who has often looked as dominant as he did Thursday. From 2016-18, Syndergaard posted a 2.81 ERA with 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings, often reaching triple-digits with his fastball. When healthy and right, he’s one of baseball’s best, despite his status on a team struggling to gain any momentum.
“We’ve dug ourselves a hole and we need to win, simple as that,” Alonso said. “We just need to win.”