WASHINGTON -- What was supposed to be a National League Cy Young Award-caliber season for Noah Syndergaard has instead been fragmented into pieces. Back in May, a late-notice rainout cost Syndergaard a start. Two weeks later, Syndergaard strained his right index finger, and he wound up missing close to two
WASHINGTON -- What was supposed to be a National League Cy Young Award-caliber season for Noah Syndergaard has instead been fragmented into pieces. Back in May, a late-notice rainout cost Syndergaard a start. Two weeks later, Syndergaard strained his right index finger, and he wound up missing close to two months. Then it was the unusual case of hand, foot and mouth disease, a viral ailment that cost him another start.
Along the way, the Mets fell far enough out of contention in the NL East for Syndergaard's issues to become less pressing matters. Yet Syndergaard's return from the disabled list in a 5-3 loss to the Nationals on Wednesday at Nationals Park gave the Mets hope that he can pitch every fifth day from now until the end of September.
"I kind of went through a rollercoaster of emotions and events," Syndergaard said. "It's going to take a while to knock a little bit of rust off. But today … I really hit my stride."
Making his first start in 11 days, Syndergaard allowed an RBI single to Bryce Harper in the first inning and a two-run homer to Anthony Rendon in the third. After that, he retired 12 in a row until Daniel Murphy singled to lead off the seventh.
All told, Syndergaard allowed three runs in seven innings, striking out four and walking one. He threw 91 pitches.
"Obviously, he's had a bit of a strange year in terms of injuries and sicknesses," manager Mickey Callaway said. "He's going to be an elite pitcher if he can get his routine underway. … For as strange as his routine has been, he did a heck of a job."
It was the type of outing the Mets hoped to see from Syndergaard after missing significant time to injury for the second straight season. But it was not quite enough for the Mets to avoid a two-game series sweep against a Nationals club attempting to climb back into the postseason race.
Jose Reyes provided the bulk of the Mets' offense with solo home runs off Tommy Milone in the fifth inning and Ryan Madson in the eighth, hitting as many homers Wednesday as he allowed during his relief pitching cameo the previous night. The rest of the Mets went quietly against Milone, their former teammate, who gave up just two other hits, and a late Nationals rally prevented Wilmer Flores' ninth-inning solo homer from causing the Nats too much worry.
More important for the Mets was the performance of Syndergaard, who owns a 2.98 ERA with 87 strikeouts in 81 2/3 innings this season. The team will look for him to log as many innings as possible down the stretch to create a baseline heading into 2019, ensuring that he will not be under any sort of innings limit next summer.
"After today, hopefully I won't have any more setbacks for the rest of the season," added Syndergaard. "Hopefully, I'll be able to finish the season strong."
Reyes became the second player in Major League history to allow multiple home runs as a pitcher, then hit multiple home runs in his team's next game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The other was Hall of Famer Cap Anson for the Chicago White Stockings in 1884.
"It feels good, but still, we lost the game after a tough loss last night," Reyes said. "It would have been better if we came out with this win today, but it didn't happen."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Sprinting to his left in the second inning, Michael Conforto made a diving catch to rob Matt Adams of a leadoff extra-base hit. Statcast™ calculated Conforto's catch probability at just 33 percent based on the ball's launch angle and exit velocity, and he covered 70 feet in 4.1 seconds to make the grab.
FROM THE TRAINER'S ROOM
Mets infielder Phillip Evans took the brunt of a collision with Adam Eaton in the first inning, when Eaton slid into second base to break up a would-be double play. Slow to get up from the dirt, Evans exited the game half an inning later due to a sore and swollen left knee. The Mets challenged the play on the grounds that Eaton's slide violated the slide rule at second base, but the review confirmed that it was a legal slide.
Scheduled for an MRI on Thursday, Evans said he's "a little bit" worried about the injury.
"I'm not trying to put any thoughts in my head until I get the MRI," Evans said.
HE SAID IT
"I'm surprised more people didn't come down with it. I had a breakout on my hands, so I was looking at my hands that start against the Yankees, going, 'What the heck is going on with my hands right now?' I touched a lot of baseballs that day, too." -- Syndergaard, on his experience with hand, foot and mouth disease
The Mets will begin a seven-game homestand Thursday behind left-hander Jason Vargas, who is looking to put a positive spin on a poor first season with the Mets. Looking to play the role of NL East spoilers, the Mets will take their hacks against Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz in the 7:10 p.m. ET game at Citi Field.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.