Of the career-high 12 hits allowed by Noah Syndergaard on Saturday night, the one that hurt the most was the one that might have mattered the least, with the lead already large and the game close to over.
In the Mets’ 10-5 win over the Phillies, Syndergaard’s 109th and final pitch was a sinker to Cesar Hernandez that was clocked at 98.3 mph. Hernandez shot it back at Syndergaard at 103.7 mph — directly off the righthander’s right rib cage.
Syndergaard hit the ground, writhed for a moment, then crawled to the ball too late. Hernandez was on first, a run was in and athletic trainer Brian Chicklo was jogging out. Syndergaard paced while feeling his right side and handed the ball to Mickey Callaway without a fight.
X-rays were negative, and Syndergaard said he expects to make his next start. But for a moment, it was terrifying.
“It’s a scary situation. That’s been my nightmare ever since I started playing,” Syndergaard said. “Today was just my judgment day of having a screamer come back at me. Everyone’s asking if I’m OK. I’m just concerned if the ball is all right.”
The Citi Field crowd sent Syndergaard off with a standing ovation after 6 2⁄3 innings, four runs, five walks and four strikeouts. Jerry Blevins struck out Jose Bautista, recently traded by the Mets (64-77) to the Phillies (74-67), to strand three of Syndergaard’s runners.
Syndergaard was not sharp. This was the first time in his career that he walked more batters than he struck out (though one walk was intentional). Six days after his first career complete game, he scattered baserunners throughout, though it didn’t hurt him until Rhys Hoskins scorched a home run to left-centerfield in the sixth.
Callaway gave Syndergaard the opportunity to work through a difficult seventh, which began with three consecutive singles and four of the first five batters reaching base. Hernandez was going to be Syndergaard’s last batter one way or another.
“When you have a guy like Syndergaard, deGrom, Wheeler and the way they’ve been pitching, they’re your best chance,” Callaway said. “I’d like them to get to their pitch counts. I think they deserve to be able to get out of their own messes as long as they have pitches left. We thought about it, but we thought it best to leave him in.
“He’s had better command with his fastball, but he battled really hard and put up a pretty good game. He could have easily gotten through there with seven innings and two earned.”
The Mets’ lineup reached double-digit runs at home for the first time since May 15.
Tomas Nido (three-run double in the second inning) and Todd Frazier (three-run homer in the third) staked the Mets to a big early lead. Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce each had two hits and scored two runs. Conforto’s eighth-inning solo home run was his 59th RBI of the season, most on the club.
Jeff McNeil finished 3-for-5 and has reached base in his past 21 starts.
“He’s added a whole other dimension to the way our lineup looks,” Callaway said. “He has a little bit of a different skill set than some other guys. He’s able to spray the ball around the field, he’s great left-on-left. Just adding that whole other dynamic to your lineup makes it that much more challenging for a pitcher to come out and navigate things.”
Notes & quotes: Dominic Smith left the game in the sixth inning because of a tight left groin, which he first tweaked Friday night and felt again a day later. “We felt it best to get him out,” Callaway said. Smith, who was 0-for-2 with a walk, started a second major-league game in a row for the first time since July.