Young Syndergaard remains fearless in postseason
NEW YORK -- Mets manager Terry Collins said on Sunday night what everyone has known for months: his big right-hander Noah Syndergaard "is legit."
As a starter or in relief, Syndergaard has had a major impact on the Mets this postseason, winning Game 2 of the National League Championship Series over the Cubs and Jake Arrieta at Citi Field, 4-1.
"This guy is going to be an outstanding, outstanding pitcher for a long time," Collins said. "He's big, he's strong. Hopefully we keep him healthy. And he has no fear. He's not intimidated by anything. Of course when you're that big, you shouldn't be intimidated by anything."
Syndergaard is listed at 6-foot-6, 242 pounds. He throws what he calls "the rock" in excess of 98 mph and said he's been doing it since his days growing up in Mansfield, Texas.
Of the four young Mets starters, he's the only one who is uninjured, isn't on a pitch count and hasn't had Tommy John surgery like Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz.
"Yeah, I think I got up to 98 or so when I was in high school, but it was all over the place," Syndergaard said. "Now I'm able to locate it down in the zone and add a little extra movement to it as well."
And that's scary for opposing hitters. The Cubs managed three runs on seven hits and struck out 18 times in the first two games against Harvey and Syndergaard, who allowed a run on three hits with nine strikeouts before Collins lifted him with two outs in the sixth inning. He had already tossed 101 pitches.
Now the Cubs, down 2-0 in the best-of-seven series, face the prospect of deGrom and Matz in Games 3 and 4 at Wrigley Field on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
It's a tall order, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon remains confident.
"We're all about one-game winning streaks, very seriously," Maddon said. "I really preach daily the one-day-at-a-time approach. I know it's psycho babble 101, but it actually works. So all I'm concerned about is the next game. deGrom's very good, but we're very good also at the plate. We have a lot of confidence in our players and our hitters, and I'm really eager to get to the next game."
Unlike the other three young hurlers who were drafted and developed in the Mets' system, Syndergaard was actually a first-round pick (38th overall) by the Blue Jays in the 2010 Draft. The Mets obtained him from Toronto, along with catcher Travis d'Arnaud, on Dec. 17, 2012, in the deal that sent former NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to Canada.
Syndergaard was actually in the Minors until this past May 12, and in his first big league game, he ironically lost to the Cubs at Wrigley, allowing three runs on six hits with four walks and six whiffs in 5 1/3 innings. It seems like a million miles and a lot of work to get from there to what he was able to do on Sunday night.
"Composure-wise, [he was] just able to control himself a little bit better this time, obviously," Maddon said. "His stuff's always good. I mean, with the kind of velocity he has. The other pitches he throws are good, too. But right now he's just a little bit more polished than when we'd first seen him."
He's so polished that Collins didn't hesitate to use Syndergaard to pitch the seventh inning in relief of deGrom on Thursday night in the Mets' 3-2 victory in a climactic Game 5 over the Dodgers that ended the NL Division Series at Dodger Stadium.
Syndergaard had never been used in the Majors like that and hadn't made a relief appearance since 2011 at Class A. Like the pro he is, Syndergaard tossed a scoreless inning and threw 17 pitches. Collins had Syndergaard warming up in the bullpen that night four times in that critical elimination game.
Asked if he had to prepare any differently for Sunday night's start on just two days' rest, Syndergaard shook his head in the negative.
"No, not at all," he said. "When I woke up this morning, my arm felt fine. Yesterday it felt great. I told Terry I was ready to grab the rock and ready to go."
Was he ever.