In a Sentence:
Noah Syndergaard unleashed his shiny new hammer of a slider and the Mets won 2-0.
A 95 MPH…Slider?
The Royals didn’t get multiple runners on base until the sixth inning. With the crowd revved up, Syndergaard threw four straight balls for his only walk of the afternoon. It felt like we were about to watch another one of those moments where the Mets let a lead slip away to Kansas City. Dan Warthen came out to remind Syndergaard that he had been able to overpower the Royals with runners on base, striking out the first five hitters he faced in these high leverage situations. He just needed one more out. Syndergaard fired three straight sliders past Kendrys Morales: 93, 95 and 93 miles per hour.
If you read my colleague Jarrett Seidler’s preview of Syndergaard’s pitches, you wouldn’t be surprised to see Syndergaard using the slider as a primary offspeed pitch. We know the Warthen slider is tighter and has more velocity than most sliders. But I’m not sure any of us have seen a radar gun flash 95 for a slider with the bases loaded! It made Syndergaard’s 98.2 MPH fastball and 99.5 MPH sinker (per Brooks Baseball) feel like secondary pitches today. Afternoons like this make Thor look like one of the frontrunners for the Cy Young Award. I never want to make too much out of one game, but seeing another Noah with great stuff is really cool.
The Royals dropped several hints about retaliating for Syndergaard’s pitch in Game 3 of the World Series during the offseason, but there were no brushbacks or dirty play today. The Mets didn’t even have to stand on field and watch Kansas City’s second day of ceremonies. For the most part, today’s game felt like game 2 of a 162 game season instead of Sunday’s continuation of a painful World Series where seemingly everything that could go wrong did go wrong.
All the World Series déjà vu came back in the ninth, with Lorenzo Cain leading off. Jeurys Familia, who blew three saves last October, hadn’t looked good during spring training. If he struggled today, you never know when Mets fans would hit the panic button. (No, wait, some Mets fans were panicking over David Wright after one game. I’ll get back to him.) Fortunately, Familia struck Cain out, then got two ground balls to have a relatively drama free 9th. The bullpen combined for three innings without allowing a baserunner.
A Bizarro Pitching Duel:
It feels odd to characterize this game as a pitching duel. Noah Syndergaard threw nasty stuff for most of the game. The Royals, on the other hand, turned to former Met Chris Young, who PECOTA projects to have a -0.1 WARP this season. Young’s fastball hovered at 88 MPH for most of the game and he walked three guys over five innings of three-hit ball. In a smaller ballpark like Yankee Stadium, Chris Young would get shelled and be out of the game. But in Kansas City, Young was able to play to the big outfield and speedy outfielders for three innings. Yoenis Cespedes opened the fourth inning with a walk and Neil Walker pulled a mistake for a home run to right for the only scoring play of the game. Both teams struggled seeing the ball through late afternoon shadows in the later innings and went 0-7 with runners in scoring position. Maybe 3:15 p.m. local is a bad time to start a baseball game?
Step Away From The Panic Button:
After David Wright’s weak throw on Sunday night, some of the more nervous Mets fans wondered if Wright would ever be spry again. Like most things in baseball, RELAX! It’s just one game. When Wright was healthy and stealing 20 bases a year, his first inning walk would have been a prime opportunity to run. But Gary, Keith and Ron thought Wright’s days of stealing bases were behind him. Naturally, Wright stole second on the next pitch, as well as another steal in the fifth. It wasn’t a completely positive game for the third baseman though: Wright double-clutched on a potential double play ball in the sixth that helped the Royals maintain their only scoring threat.
Welcome Back Jim Henderson:
After being out of the big leagues in 2015 and most of 2014, Jim Henderson pitched a scoreless 7th inning, racking up got six whiffs on 13 pitches. If Henderson stays hot, I’d expect him to keep getting higher leverage assignments as opposed to being a mop up guy at the end of the bullpen.
Two days off, then the home opener Friday night. Hopefully with warmer conditions! No word yet on whether Jacob DeGrom will start or be away as his wife gives birth.
Photo credit: Denny Medley-USA Today Sports