With yet another starter on IL, Thor's role crucial as ever

May 21st, 2023

ST. LOUIS -- There were two parts to ’s start for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday night.

The Dodgers, with mounting injury concerns in their starting rotation, are hoping the second part is a sign of things to come from the right-hander.

After surrendering three runs in the first two innings, Syndergaard retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced in a five-inning no-decision. His ability to limit the damage kept the Dodgers in the game, allowing them to pull even on a homer in the sixth.

Even though the St. Louis Cardinals eventually won, 6-5, there were more positives than negatives from Syndergaard’s outing.

“Just huge, because the first two innings, I was like, ‘Here we go again, another crappy outing,’” Syndergaard said. “But it was nice to bounce back and put up some zeroes.”

Syndergaard, in throwing 80 pitches, showed that the cut on his right index finger was fully healed. It was finally some good news on the pitching health front for the Dodgers, who placed lefty Julio Urías on the 15-day injured list with a left hamstring strain shortly before the game.

Los Angeles currently has more starters on the IL (Urías, Dustin May, Walker Buehler, Ryan Pepiot and Michael Grove) than it has healthy starters (Syndergaard, Clayton Kershaw and Tony Gonsolin).

“We're going to find a way as we always do, but guys are going to get opportunities and that's a good thing, too,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.

Syndergaard gave up an RBI single to Willson Contreras in the first inning and an RBI double to Alec Burleson in the second, before Lars Nootbaar’s sacrifice fly gave the Cardinals an early 3-0 lead. Three of the first six balls the Cardinals put in play had exit velocities of at least 100 mph.

“I just got more external,” Syndergaard said. “First two innings, it's been my Achilles’ heel my whole career. It’s just like paralysis by analysis trying to feel certain things with my delivery as opposed to just focusing on executing pitches. But it was nice that I was able to bend a little bit and not break.”

Syndergaard settled in from there, getting four ground-ball outs and a pair of strikeouts in his final three innings.

“It was huge,” Roberts said. “Not only did it give us a chance to win tonight, but it gives us a chance to win tomorrow staying away from some leverage guys, and building his pitch count up to have him ready to take his next turn is also a positive.”

Syndergaard hopes to build off the success from the latter part of his outing.

“Just like the tempo and competitiveness and the intense conviction of the pitches,” Syndergaard said. “I think they just stay right there and it will be a lot more fun to play baseball.”

It took the Dodgers a couple of times through the lineup to finally solve Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas, who retired the first 10 batters he faced. and got the rally started in the sixth with back-to-back singles and Martinez extended his hitting streak to five games with a Statcast-projected 408-foot home run over the left-field wall to tie the game at 3.

“Miles pitched a really good game, honestly, besides that one inning,” Martinez said. “He was literally just dotting every pitch it seemed like on everybody and it was tough. I think we just got to him in that inning. … Just battled him out and luckily, I got a pitch up, put a spin on it.”

But , pitching for the first time since Wednesday, struggled in the bottom of the eighth. Tommy Edman greeted him with a leadoff double, and after González intentionally walked Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Gorman blasted a three-run homer into the Cardinals’ bullpen. Those were the first earned runs González has allowed this season.

The Dodgers attempted yet another comeback against All-Star closer Ryan Helsley in the ninth. ’s RBI double gave Los Angeles runners on second and third with none out, but Giovanny Gallegos bailed the Cardinals out by getting to pop out, inducing a sacrifice fly from and striking Betts out on a pitch that the Dodgers thought was outside.

“I could just tell Mookie's reaction,” Roberts said. “Obviously, he's got the best look at it, and just seeing Mookie’s reaction, and then you go back and look at how far off it was, and it doesn't give the hitter a chance. So that's what's disappointing, because our guys fought their tails off tonight.”