Syndergaard debuts with rain-shortened win

August 5th, 2022

PHILADELPHIA -- Noah Syndergaard felt the hairs stand up on the back of his neck.

Dan Baker announced his name over the public address system Thursday evening at Citizens Bank Park. Phillies fans roared.

They are excited about their team as it enters the season’s final two months. The Phillies just returned from a 5-1 road trip in Pittsburgh and Atlanta. They acquired four players before Tuesday’s Trade Deadline, including Syndergaard. They are tied for the third NL Wild Card. They are a season-high nine games over .500 at 57-48.

“They expect greatness,” Syndergaard said after a 5-4 victory over the Nationals, which was called in the fifth inning because of rain. “They expect us to win. I’m going to do my part to make sure that we succeed.”

The Phillies acquired Syndergaard on Tuesday for Mickey Moniak and outfield prospect Jadiel Sánchez. Syndergaard flew to Philadelphia on Wednesday, came to the ballpark and played catch to get acclimated with his new surroundings. He returned to the ballpark Thursday afternoon, where he met most of his teammates and interim manager Rob Thomson for the first time.

It was weird being in the Phillies’ clubhouse.

“It was tough to believe at first just because I played with the Mets for the longest time,” Syndergaard said. “I didn’t really picture myself in a Phillies uniform. But I couldn’t be more proud … to wear the pinstripes.”

Syndergaard allowed four runs and 11 hits in five innings. They were the second-most hits he allowed in his career. He allowed a career-high 12 in 6 2/3 innings against the Phillies on Sept. 8, 2018, at Citi Field.

A few things about Syndergaard’s debut:

It was his first start since July 25, and just his second start since July 12. That is just two starts in 23 days. Rust was expected.

“The first two innings, I felt a little stiff,” he said. “New stadium, new team, new uniform. It was just kind of a shock. I was a little tense.”

Syndergaard threw mostly sinkers (44 percent) and curveballs (23 percent), which is something teams probably will see more moving forward. Syndergaard is not the hard-throwing “Thor” of his Mets days. He threw five four-seam fastballs, which averaged 93.8 mph. His fastball averaged 97.8 mph in 2019, before he had Tommy John surgery in ’20. But Syndergaard has found success with his sinker. His curveball has been effective, too. He barely threw the pitch the first three months of the season. He started throwing it more in his final three starts with the Angels.

“He’s usually a sinker-slider and he threw a bunch of curveballs tonight, really slow curveballs,” Nationals first baseman Luke Voit said. “So that was obviously an adjustment I had to make. But just a ground-ball pitcher. Obviously, I know he doesn't have the 98 anymore like he used to, so it's a little bit easier. But he's still got good stuff."

Syndergaard gave up some weak contact. The Nationals put 23 balls in play with an average exit velocity of 83.5 mph. His season average is 87.7 mph. Voit hit a flare over shortstop Bryson Stott’s head in the first to score a run. Maikel Franco reached on an infield single in the second. He stole second. It was his first stolen base since 2020. Baserunners are 27-for-28 stealing against Syndergaard this season. It is something Thomson said they can address.

Luis García started the fifth with a flare to right. A wild pitch allowed Voit to score to cut the Phillies’ lead to one. But Nick Castellanos made the play of the game when he caught Josh Palacios’ fly ball in shallow right field and threw out Yadiel Hernandez at the plate to end the inning.

“I was telling Kyle [Schwarber], as soon as it came out of my hand, that one felt good,” Castellanos said. “And then obviously, him being out at the plate made it even better.”

The rain fell after that. The tarp got pulled.

The game got called 2 hours, 6 minutes later. It meant Rhys Hoskins’ game-tying homer in the first, Hoskins’ game-tying single in the third and Alec Bohm’s three-run, go-ahead homer in the third stood up.

It meant Syndergaard got a complete-game win.

“Getting him a win is big,” Castellanos said. “It’s a step in the right direction. Hopefully he just continues to get more and more comfortable in a Phillies uniform.”