PHILADELPHIA — The Mets helped build the case for a National League Cy Young Award candidate on Friday. It wasn’t the one they wanted, though.
In what is becoming a three-man battle between Jacob deGrom, the Nationals’ Max Scherzer and the Phillies’ Aaron Nola, the Mets inadvertently cast a vote for the Philadelphia ace, striking out 11 times against Nola in a 4-2 loss at Citizens Bank Park.
Nola (14-3) has earned three wins against the Mets this season and has a 1.44 ERA against them. He allowed three hits and a walk in seven innings.
Nola’s overall ERA dropped to 2.24. It was his fifth double-digit strikeout game of the season, mostly thanks to a knee-buckling curve.
DeGrom, who is scheduled to start Saturday, still leads the majors with a 1.81 ERA but carries his 7-7 record like a millstone around his neck. Scherzer (16-5) pitched six scoreless innings Friday, dropping his ERA to 2.11.
“I think we’re seeing the cream of the crop — the best pitchers in probably all of baseball are in our division,” Mickey Callaway said.
“I see a really good mix of pitches [from Nola]. I see a lot of deception. His ability to get ahead. He does all the things a top-tier starter needs to do to have success.”
The Phillies benefited from Noah Syndergaard’s roughest start of the season, highlighted (or lowlighted) by five steals against him and Kevin Plawecki. It was another showcase of a problem that doesn’t seem to be going away despite the adjustments Syndergaard has made as he tries to speed up his delivery.
“I was working on it prior to getting hurt and I’m still trying to get consistent with it,” Syndergaard said. “It’s definitely an Achilles’ heel of mine — something that’s been disappointing over the last three years and somewhat embarrassing tonight and something I’m going to continue to work on.’’
It ended up being an arduous effort — 115 pitches in 5 2⁄3 hard-fought innings — and he left having given up four runs and eight hits, with two walks and five strikeouts.
Syndergaard (8-3) said the issue is mastering a quicker delivery while not adversely affecting his mechanics.
“It’s something I battle every day when I go out there,” he said. “I’m just trying to correct a lot of things that I’ve been doing wrong for a long time.”
Barely containing a smirk as he stepped into the batter’s box, Asdrubal Cabrera faced off against his former teammate in the first and won. After the first two batters got on against Syndergaard with a single and a walk, Cabrera lined an RBI double over leftfielder Jack Reinheimer’s head. Nick Williams’ single made it 2-0 and the third run of the inning scored on Carlos Santana’s double-play ball.
The Mets finally got their first hit off Nola in the fourth, Jeff McNeil’s single. Three batters later, McNeil scored on Todd Frazier’s sacrifice fly.
Roman Quinn tripled to lead off the bottom of the fourth and Jorge Alfaro’s broken-bat single made it 4-1. The Mets drew to within 4-2 in the eighth when McNeil doubled and scored on Austin Jackson’s single.
Though Syndergaard did give up the five stolen bases, only one of the runners scored. Still, base-stealers are 24-for-26 against him this season. What’s more, three of the steals came from Maikel Franco (two career steals before Friday, none this year) and Alfaro (who had two steals, the first of his 125-game career).
“We need to get back in that direction where he’s really concentrating on that and valuing it,” Callaway said of Syndergaard holding on runners. “The bottom line is he needs to get better and I think he will.”