Yoenis Cespedes’ left thumb is just fine, thank you very much.
On a night when the Mets lost to the Braves, 3-2, they revealed pregame a win bigger than any lone triumph on the field: Cespedes, who left Sunday’s game with a sore left thumb, is not hurt. In fact, he didn’t even get an MRI. And then when he found himself in the lineup on Tuesday two days earlier than he initially estimated, he went 3-for-4, homered into the second deck in left field and threw a runner out at home.
“That guy is an animal,” Noah Syndergaard said. “It’s going to take a lot more than just a little thumb issue to take him out of the lineup.”
None of that changed the result, however, after Syndergaard yielded three runs in six innings. All three runs scored before Syndergaard recorded an out, but he settled in for what statistically qualifies as a quality start despite a season high in hits (10, three more than his previous high) and season-low in strikeouts (three, two fewer than his previous low).
Syndergaard also walked a batter, his first in 19 innings dating to April 15.
“This loss was really all on me,” said Syndergaard, adding that after the first inning he began to start at-bats with secondary pitches. “They came out aggressive and ambushed me . . . It seemed like every fastball I threw got whacked.”
The Mets nearly came back in the ninth. Wilmer Flores had an RBI groundout, but Jose Reyes flew out to deep left to end the game and leave Juan Lagares, the would-be tying run, at second.
Atlanta righthander Mike Soroka — 20 years old and one of the top prospects in baseball — kept the Mets off-balance for six innings of one-run ball in his major-league debut. The lone run came on Cespedes’ long ball. Soroka scattered six hits, walked none and struck out five.
Soroka combined with 21-year-old Ozzie Albies and 20-year-old Ronald Acuna — the three youngest players in the majors — to put a hurting on the Mets. Albies (1-for-5) and Acuna (2-for-5) led off the game with consecutive hits to help put Syndergaard and the Mets in the early hole.
“He didn’t have a great feel for the baseball, so he was trying to lay it in there,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “It didn’t feel like he had aggressiveness with his pitches. Looked like he was back and just kind of placing the ball.”
For the Mets, Cespedes was the highlight — off the field before the game and on the field during it.
Cespedes had hard singles to leftfield in the first and fourth innings, but was stranded both times. He drove himself in with a 408-foot shot in the sixth. When the Braves threatened in the seventh, Cespedes’ one-hopper home was a bit up the first-base line, but got there fast enough for catcher Tomas Nido to adjust and tag Kurt Suzuki, who was trying to score from second on a single.
After hurting his thumb while stealing third base Sunday, Cespedes exited early and said he would probably be out three days. General manager Sandy Alderson said Cespedes did not have an MRI because he “didn’t need one,” though Cespedes said Sunday he was scheduled for it.
Callaway said he has no issues with Cespedes — who he has called an MVP-type player — doing things like stealing bases and sliding head first.
“I love the way Cespedes is playing the game of baseball right now,” Callaway said.