The red and gray not-Mets
WHAT HAPPENED, A ROUGH START:
The Mets looked great on the defensive end in the first inning. They looked great, but that’s probably because Noah Syndergaard struck out the side. What about when baseballs were put in play? Well, that’s another story. Things started to unravel in the 2nd inning after Aaron Altherr singled into left center, stole second base, and came across to score the games’ opening run thanks to a Tommy Joseph double down the left field line. By double, I mean a base hit by the most extreme end of what a fair ball is. I mean, look at this:
— FanSportsClips (@FanSportsClips) April 20, 2017
Watching this live, I was dead-set that ball was foul. I had to watch it about three or four times before I finally caved and admitted Sam Holbrook made a fantastic call. For Syndergaard, that is about the most unfortunate way you can give up a run-scoring double on a pitch clocked at 101 mph. Following that, well, it didn’t get much better. Jay Bruce, in his first innings at first base, made a pretty nice play to his right to field a ground ball by Freddy Galvis. The problem arose when Syndergaard and Neil Walker couldn’t decide whose bag it was, and, ultimately, neither were able to grab Bruce’s flip to first. It was ruled a single (though Galvis’ advance to second was credited to Bruce’s throw), and Joseph scored from second. Galvis didn’t have to put much effort into running home, however, as the very next batter, Andrew Knapp, smacked a ground-rule double over the left field wall. Just like that, the Mets trailed 3-0.
With Syndergaard on the mound you’d think that would be all the Phillies would get, but baseball is dumb. In the third inning we saw Daniel Nava plunked by Syndergaard, notable as the first HBP or BB he has issued this season (though I don’t think being hit by a 99 mph fastball in the back is that free of a pass). The very next hitter, Odubel Herrera, hit a ground ball to Asdrubal Cabrera at short, and it looked like a decent double play opportunity. It looked like it would be, but might I refer you back to the last three words of the first sentence of this paragraph? The ball scooted right between Cabrera’s legs and into center field, allowing Joseph to advance to third and putting Syndergaard in a tough situation with runners at the corners to lead off the frame. A Maikel Franco double to left field followed by an Altherr groundout would plate Nava and Herrera, but that would be all the scoring done on Syndergaard.
WHAT HAPPENED, ABOUT NOAH SYNDERGAARD:
In the end, five of the seven hits that came off Thor occurred in the second and third inning. Syndergaard settled down after those awkward frames and worked through the seventh inning. He recorded 10 strikeouts, and a crucial factor was that three-fingered changeup. We’ve seen Syndergaard work it into outings more and more each week, going from around ~15% usage on opening day to ~20% usage in his third start. On Thursday, according to Brooks Baseball, 29 of his 116 pitches thrown (25%) were changeups. It wasn’t the best we have seen the pitch look this season, but two things stick out immediately. The first is that Syndergaard opted to use his changeup much more than his slider, which shows that he is growing more confident of his new weapon every week. Sure, the Phillies have a left-handed heavy lineup, but Syndergaard isn’t exactly afraid to drop that devastating slider on southpaw hitters. The second is that we can presume Syndergaard has fixed his blister/fingernail issue between his third and fourth start. The changeup is what we have heard is perpetrating the issue, and his ability to throw it this much alludes to him having solved, or made considerable progress on, the issue at hand (pun absolutely intended).
WHAT HAPPENED, WELL PLACED HITS, THINGS OF THAT NATURE:
Much like the Phillies scoring, the Mets did their damage in the 2nd and 3rd innings. With two outs, Jose Reyes singled up the middle and stole second base. It was a smart steal, considering Syndergaard was at the plate. Syndergaard worked a long walk off Aaron Nola, and Rene Rivera singled to right field just out of the reach of Freddy Galvis at second base. Reyes scored to cut the deficit to 3-1.
Then came the third, which brought much of the same. Cabrera singled up the middle and, one batter later, Bruce walked. To this point, the Mets hadn’t really hit anything hard. It was mostly well-placed soft line drives/groundballs out of the reach of defenders. Then came Neil Walker, who blasted a three-run homer to right-center. Seeing as the Mets had just fallen behind 5-1, this brought the game back within reach. The score now stood at 5-4, but that was as close as they’d get. The second time through the lineup the Mets started hitting Nola much better, and the fact that Nola was at 44 pitches as he left the second inning was a big reason as to why. All in all, they bounced Nola from the game after five innings. Unfortunately, however, the Mets didn’t get anything going against the Phillies bullpen. Joely Rodriguez, Joaquin Benoit, and Hector Neris combined to throw four strong innings of one-hit ball.
WHAT HAPPENED, THE SHOT:
Though this game was riveting, the real highlight came in the fifth inning on the front-end of a double play ball hit by Bruce. It isn’t interesting because of anything Bruce did, but because Yoenis Cespedes would end up hobbling back to the dugout. At the time, it was rumored to just be precautionary due to hamstring cramps.
WHAT HAPPENED, THE CHASER:
You know that Mets thing that sometimes happens where the injury is worse than initially led on? Well immediately after the game ended Cespedes’ cramps were upgraded to a shock. Cespedes insists that the pain wasn’t as bad as some of the hamstring issues that he has dealt with in the past that sidelined him for five games, though he is getting an MRI in the morning. According to the Mets team doctor, Cespedes is only supposed to miss two or three days. I don’t need to tag all the times we’ve heard similar stories that were really just the Mets staff downplaying an injury. We all know that is well within the realm of possibility, but if Cespedes himself says the pain is less than he has dealt with in the past you have to take his word for it. Or, at the very least, remain optimistic.
WHAT HAPPENED, THE OTHER NEWS:
You can add Cespedes to a list of injuries that is growing daily. With Cespedes, Lucas Duda, Travis d’Arnaud, and Wilmer Flores all dealing with some type of injury, something has to give. Carrying this many day-to-day guys depletes the bench, and you’d have to think one of the four is going to wind up on the 10-day DL this afternoon. Any of the four would make sense, as this early in the season it’s not worth making small problems turn into nagging problems. Working in their favor is that Monday is an off day, so whoever they choose to place on the DL would be benefited by not missing a full 10 games. Duda/d’Arnaud last played on the 19th, Flores on the 16th. If they feel that Cespedes is only going to miss a handful of games, they might just elect to give him some extra days off to make sure he is fully recovered. My gut says Flores, who has spent some time in the hospital for a knee infection, will be the guy they opt to place on the DL. In that same article, Collins describes how he is not sure how much time Duda will miss, so look for him to hit the DL also.
WHAT HAPPENED, YESTERDAY:
A whole lot of things. Not yet noted was that the phrase “Jay Bruce is a natural baseball player” in reference to his move to first base, which…
Anyhow, the Mets dropped one game of baseball to the Philadelphia Phillies 6-4. The more important thing might be that we are seeing the injury-bug start to rear its ugly head early in the season once again. If you see this bug, I authorize you to euthanize it immediately. With a flamethrower. Please.
WHAT HAPPENS, TODAY:
Having just wrapped up a series loss to the Phillies, the Mets now face the Washington Nationals and a scalding hot Bryce Harper/Ryan Zimmerman in the middle of their lineup. Game one will feature Jacob deGrom squaring off with Tanner Roark, and a series win would push the 8-8 Mets over the .500 mark as we near the end of April.
Photo credit: Brad Penner – USA Today Sports