Mets can't recover from Thor's rough start

Righty allows career-high 10 runs as club's comeback falls short

August 29th, 2019

NEW YORK -- As the runs piled up, Mets manager Mickey Callaway remained stoic in the Citi Field dugout. For Callaway, there was no alternative. With such a significant portion of their playoff hopes tied up in this three-game series against the Cubs, the Mets were going to win or lose with .

Over the next three hours, that decision hung leaden over the rest of the game. After allowing a career-high 10 runs (nine earned) in a 10-7 loss to the Cubs on Wednesday, Syndergaard described the “terrible feeling” of watching a game -- and another chunk of the Mets’ dwindling playoff hopes -- melt before his eyes as New York fell four games behind Chicago for the second National League Wild Card spot.

“I had the opportunity to go out there and do something big tonight,” Syndergaard said. “And I let the team down.”

Following their series-opening loss to the Cubs on Tuesday, the Mets could take solace in the fact that they had, by any reasonable estimation, a pitching advantage heading into the final two games. Since the All-Star break, Syndergaard and both ranked in the top four in the Majors in ERA.

Hidden from view was the fact that even throughout his run of eight consecutive quality starts, Syndergaard felt somewhat uncomfortable and “unathletic” on the mound. He had not felt dominant since shutting out the Reds on May 2, despite a relatively strong collection of starts since that time. And the Cubs, Syndergaard added, “really exposed that.”

“They capitalized on every mistake that I made,” he said.

Not every bit of Chicago’s six-run rally in the first inning was the fault of Syndergaard, who struck out the game’s first batter and jumped ahead of the second, 0-2, before hitting Nicholas Castellanos with a pitch. Kris Bryant followed with a soft single to left, and then Javier Baez reached on 's throwing error, which allowed Castellanos to score. Kyle Schwarber ripped an RBI double to right, and Addison Russell’s bloop two-run single made it 4-0 before Ian Happ belted a two-run homer. Only toward the end of that rally did the Mets’ bullpen stir, though Callaway never made a move to bring anyone into the game.

Instead, Callaway sent Syndergaard back out for the second inning, in which he gave up a two-run Schwarber homer, and the third, in which Castellanos hit a two-run shot. By the end of all that, the Mets were trailing, 10-1.

“If you take him out after the first, he only had … 39 pitches,” Callaway said, explaining his decision to leave in Syndergaard. “If he can go back out, you send him back out. … I felt like Noah was going to come out in the second inning and hold them. Obviously, he didn’t.”

Afterward, Callaway focused his comments mostly on the Mets’ comeback that followed: five runs in the fifth inning, another in the eighth, significant threats in both the seventh and the ninth. Others in the clubhouse were more results-oriented.

“It’s great to watch the boys go out there and come back, but it makes me feel even worse that I wasn’t able to go out there and do my job,” Syndergaard said. “It’s my job to go out there and put up zeros, and I did the exact opposite of that.”

Now New York's slimming postseason hopes hinge on deGrom, one of the few pitchers in baseball to outperform Syndergaard since the All-Star break. Just two days ago, the Mets were two games back of the Cubs for the second NL Wild Card spot. The margin is suddenly twice as large, making Thursday’s series finale critical.

“It’s huge,” said. “We’ve already lost the series. … We’ve got to scratch out one [win] any way we can."