It’s only in the strange, singular world of professional baseball that a small blister can cause wide-eyed alarm. Could mighty Noah Syndergaard really be felled by this tiny pocket of blood located on the tip of his middle finger?
In short, no. For a slightly longer answer, we throw it to Terry Collins: “He’s fine.”
Syndergaard continued to be the most valuable of the Mets’ arms Sunday night, vanquishing the hand invader that forced the Mets to push back his start one day. He allowed two runs (one earned) and five hits in seven innings, walking none and striking out nine. Almost as big, he went deep enough to mostly save an overtaxed and recently unreliable bullpen.
Addison Reed pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to finish off a 5-2 win over the Marlins as the Mets avoided a sweep. They finished their season-opening six-game home stand at 3-3.
“He’s been really good, he’s going to be really good, and he’s going to stay really good,” Collins said of Syndergaard. “Noah is a special guy. He knows when he’s got to rise up.”
The Mets broke out of an offensive slump early against Edinson Volquez, scoring three in the first. With a runner on third, Jay Bruce hit a dribbler up the first-base line, and Justin Bour’s throw home was flubbed by catcher J.T. Realmuto. Asdrubal Cabrera, who had been heading back to third, charged back home as the ball skittered away. Neil Walker tacked on an RBI single and Michael Conforto walked with the bases loaded to make it 3-0.
The Mets added on in the fifth and sixth on solo home runs by Bruce and Conforto.
That was plenty for Syndergaard, who pitched as if he didn’t have a care in the world. Collins said before the game that Syndergaard probably would be inclined to stay away from his changeup, or be forced to change his grip, because the three-fingered hold puts pressure on the middle finger upon release. Instead, after a first inning full of fastballs and sliders, Syndergaard pretty much shrugged and went back to his other secondary pitches: a bunch of changeups and even a curveball or two.
“The blister is fine,” he said, his long blond locks crowned by a . . . well, crown, which is given to the most valuable player of each game in the clubhouse afterward. “I think it just flared up in the last start just because I haven’t really been used to this colder environment, but today it was better.”
Catcher Rene Rivera said, “I think he was outstanding. He was better than last time. He really threw more changeups and his changeup was better.”
Unsurprisingly, Syndergaard hasn’t been all that keen about discussing what amounts to a minor inconvenience. He was in a good mood before his start, taking his usual station next to the Mets’ Nerf basketball net and shooting a few rounds.
He hummed along despite a few misplays from the defense. Miami’s only runs against Syndergaard came in the third, thanks to a misplayed ball in left-center. Miguel Rojas hit a fly ball toward centerfielder Conforto, who didn’t take charge, so Yoenis Cespedes scooted in front of him to make the play, only to drop it. That put runners on second and third, and Dee Gordon doubled both home.
But teammates giveth and teammates taketh away. After the misplay, Rivera limited the damage, throwing out Gordon and Realmuto on attempted steals.
Collins couldn’t have scripted it any better if he had tried: a healthy ace, and all but one batter in the starting lineup reached base.
“You’ve got to go with track records, and we have a lot of guys with really, really good track records,” Collins said of the Mets’ recent offensive woes. “I’ve seen too many times guys get off to slow starts . . . I think we’re going to hit, and when you combine that with that pitching that I think is still going to be dominant, we’ll be just fine.”
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