In the Mets’ first trip to Comerica Park since 2011, Noah Syndergaard faced off against Tigers ace Justin Verlander. Syndergaard, after dominating at near-Kershawian levels early in the season, has come a bit back to earth recently, posting a 3.76 ERA since 6/22 (albeit with a much lower 2.95 FIP) and struggling with elevated pitch counts. Verlander, meanwhile, has quietly returned to near peak strikeout and walk levels while leading all American league pitchers in fWAR over the past calendar year.
While the Met offense got off to a sleepy start (going 1-2-3 in the first), the Tigers got things rolling right off the bat in the bottom of the first, as Ian Kinsler lead off with a single. The Detroit second baseman then swiped second and third base (Thor’s problems holding runners rearing their head again) before scoring on a ground out from Miguel Cabrera.
In the second, the Mets threatened against Verlander, after singles from Jay Bruce and James Loney put runners on first and second with no outs. As has so often been the case in recent months, the opportunity was wasted. Kelly Johnson and Brandon Nimmo struck out swinging before Rene Rivera lined out to right field to end the threat.
Syndergaard settled in during the second and third innings, striking out three and allowing only one hit. In the fourth, he got some run support in the form of a two-run home run from Johnson. The lead would be short-lived, however, as the Tigers promptly retook the lead in the bottom half of the frame on a two-run home run from Victor Martinez. J.D. Martinez followed that with a double (one where he appeared to be out, but the Mets failed to challenge), later scoring on a two-out RBI single from James McCann. Syndergaard finished the inning at 78 pitches with the Mets trailing 4-2.
The game was largely quiet from then on. Verlander allowed only a single to Neil Walker in the fifth and sixth innings, striking out three. He finished his night by striking out Loney after an eleven-pitch battle. Syndergaard got into trouble in the sixth with a walk and an infield single, but escaped with a pair of strikeouts and a fielder’s choice. Thor finished with six innings of four-run ball, striking out seven, walking one and surrendering seven hits. He threw 109 pitches despite being victimized by a .375 BABIP on the night.
Both the Tigers’ and Mets’ bullpens were excellent once the starters departed. Shane Greene and Justin Wilson each tossed a 1-2-3 inning of relief for the Tigers, while Erik Goeddel worked two scoreless innings for the Mets to send the game to the ninth with the deficit holding at two runs. If the Mets were to win, they’d have to pull off a comeback against former Met Francisco Rodriguez.
Walker lead off with a single, advanced on a wild pitch, and moved to third on a ground out from Bruce, who was given a puzzling 3-0 hit sign against the mediocre stuff of a declining K-Rod (he was basically guaranteed to get a changeup, and he swung and missed at one out of the zone). Loney grounded out to score Walker and cut the deficit to one, bringing Johnson to the plate as the tying run. Unfortunately, Johnson grounded out weakly to second to cut the Met rally short.
The putrid Met offense continued to flail Friday, mustering only five hits and a walk and going 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. The 4-3 loss also closes out a monthlong stretch during which the Mets did not win back to back games. With both the Marlins and Cardinals winning, the Mets fall to 2 games back of the second wild card, and their 83-79 pace would be seven games worse than their record in 2015. Logan Verrett opposes Matt Boyd in game two of the series today.
Photo credit: Rick Osentoski – USA Today Sports