The first two games of this Mets-Nationals series felt like an oasis in the desert. Despite losing 10 of their last 11 games with a severely undermanned roster, the Mets won Friday and Saturday’s games against their streaking divisional rival, offering a glimpse at how good they are when getting timely hits and solid pitching. For two days, there were no new injuries to report.
On Sunday, however, the Mets were thrown back into reality with a thud.
They lost 23-5 in the series finale as Anthony Rendon smacked a trio of home runs and became the 13th player in MLB history to notch 10 RBIs in a single game, but the real story is Noah Syndergaard. The Mets’ ace held his side after throwing a second inning changeup to Bryce Harper, causing Ray Ramirez and Terry Collins to rush the mound and end Syndergaard’s day. It was a possible lat strain, per the team.
Thor gave up five runs in an ugly first inning, issuing his first walk of the season, just three days after he was scratched from a scheduled start against the Braves with biceps soreness. He will undergo a MRI back in New York, and it might be awhile before the beloved fireballer is back on the bump.
Sean Gilmartin entered for Syndergaard and threw gas on the Mets’ 5-2 deficit, giving up five runs in three innings of work. Fernando Salas and Josh Smoker made it even worse, and it got so bad Kevin Plawecki was forced to pitch the seventh and eighth. He allowed three home runs.
A rough weekend for Thor
Who knows how severe Syndergaard’s latest injury is, but it’s extremely troubling nonetheless. For a hard-thrower like him, with a history of arm injuries, to leave a game in the second inning just days after missing a start raises obvious red flags and throws an already tumultuous Mets season on the verge of pure disaster.
As Gary Cohen and Ron Darling noted on the SNY broadcast, while a lat strain may not be directly related to Thor’s previous injury, it could signify other arm problems. We won’t know for sure until the test results are released, however.
It has been a crazy couple of days for Syndergaard, from not pitching on Thursday to his alleged berating of Mets’ PR man Jay Horwitz for allowing reporters to approach him about his status. He likely would have gotten a reprieve from that incident had he pitched well on Sunday; instead, leaving with yet another injury will — rightfully — cause many to question both how he and the team handled the situation. Remember that he refused to undergo an MRI on Thursday, with Sandy Alderson lamenting how the Mets can’t “strap [Syndergaard] down and throw him in the tube.”
How the rotation can forge ahead
The Mets didn’t sign a single player — either pitcher or hitter — from another organization to a major league contract this offseason, and that conservative (some may say cheap) decision is resulting in a nightmare for the pitching staff. With Seth Lugo and Steven Matz still sidelined due to their own injuries and Robert Gsellman struggling so far, the Amazins just don’t have many options to fill Syndergaard’s spot in the rotation.
Gilmartin may be forced into service, but his performance on Sunday was far from promising. He’s a mop-up guy at best. It always pains the Mets to do this — heaven forbid the Wilpons shill out some extra money to pay a temporary replacement — but they might have to bite the bullet and look elsewhere for starting pitching help if Syndergaard is out for the long term, because Gilmartin, Rafael Montero or (gasp) Adam Wilk just aren’t going to cut it.
Some offensive life
It feels trivial to even talk about the offense on such a day, but after two weeks of lifeless offensive performances, New York seems to be perking up a bit. Michael Conforto ripped an RBI single off a two-strike pitch from Joe Ross after a pair of ugly at-bats while Jose Reyes’ first inning triple down the first base line led to an early run. Both guys, batting in the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in the lineup Sunday, had a strong series at the plate. Rene Rivera added his first home run of the season.
Jay Bruce, the Mets’ best batter all season, continued to drive the ball well with a third inning solo homer to center field and a deep double in the seventh. The same can’t be said for Curtis Granderson or Neil Walker, who went a combined 0-7 and saw their averages dip further below the Mendoza Line.
What’s to come
Although it may be hard to believe, the Mets took two of three from the Nationals this weekend and actually cut into their 7.5-game deficit in the NL East. This week, they’ll head to Atlanta — and new SunTrust Park — for the first time this season for a four-game set with the resurgent Braves as the Mets look to regain some stability and edge back toward .500.
Photo credit: Geoff Burke – USA Today Sports