NEW YORK -- Mets ace Noah Syndergaard wasn't bad in his first three starts of the season, but he also wasn't close to being satisfied.Sunday was different. Syndergaard still wasn't satisfied, but at least he was close."I feel like this is finally a step in the right direction," Syndergaard said
NEW YORK -- Mets ace Noah Syndergaard wasn't bad in his first three starts of the season, but he also wasn't close to being satisfied.
Sunday was different. Syndergaard still wasn't satisfied, but at least he was close.
"I feel like this is finally a step in the right direction," Syndergaard said after the Mets' 3-2 walk-off win over the Brewers. "I finally got a glimpse of what I'm capable of. I felt like my first three starts were not up to par. I feel like this is close to dominance."
It certainly looked that way, both to anyone watching and to the guys who went to the plate to try to hit against him. Syndergaard struck out 11 Brewers in 5 1/3 innings, including eight straight from the second inning through the fourth. He didn't allow a hit until the fifth and allowed just one unearned run.
"He just went out there and attacked," manager Mickey Callaway said.
Or, as Syndergaard said, he went out there and stopped thinking about his mechanics and let his enormous skill take over. He looked more like the guy who was one of the best pitchers in the game before a torn lat muscle basically ended his 2017 season at the end of April.
The eight straight strikeouts were two shy of Tom Seaver's Major League record, set in 1970 with the Mets. They were the most by a Major League starter since Max Scherzer of the Nationals struck out nine in a row in his season-ending no-hitter against the Mets in 2015, and the most by a Met since Jacob deGrom struck out the first eight Padres in a 2014 start.
The Brewers have always been a favorite opponent for Syndergaard. This was his third career start against Milwaukee, and in those games he has a 0.49 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings.
He even doubled in his first at-bat against them on Sunday for his first hit of the season.
The Brewers did make Syndergaard work in a 29-pitch first inning, which eventually led to Callaway cutting Syndergaard's day short five innings later. With Syndergaard's pitch count at 101 after Jesus Aguilar's one-out single in the sixth, Callaway went to the bullpen for Robert Gsellman. Gsellman loaded the bases, and shortstop Amed Rosario's two-run throwing error cost Syndergaard a chance at a win.
"I felt like he had thrown enough," Callaway said. "The most we were going to take him to was 105 [pitches]."
Callaway has talked about pushing his top starters deeper in games, but he had no regrets about pulling Syndergaard when he did on Sunday.
"Throwing 101 pitches in 5 1/3, that's almost pushing him," Callaway said. "We pushed him as hard as we were going to today."
Syndergaard didn't criticize his manager, but he did say he would have liked the chance to continue.
"I felt like I didn't really break a sweat out there," he said. "I felt like I had plenty left. I didn't feel gassed or winded. I felt like I was just hitting my stride."
The Brewers' hitters wouldn't argue with that, saying that facing Syndergaard on a 42-degree day with the wind blowing was almost unfair.
"Good luck," Travis Shaw said. "Freakin' Wiffle balls at 98 miles an hour. His changeup's disgusting."
The good news for the Brewers? They won't see Syndergaard and the Mets again until the end of May. The bad news for other Mets opponents? Syndergaard can get even better than he looked on Sunday.
"I'm barely scratching the surface," he said.
Sunday was a glimpse of how good he can be.
Danny Knobler is a contributor to MLB.com based in New York.