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Inconsistent Noah Syndergaard shaky early in Mets' loss to Padres

Mets catcher Tomas Nido and starting pitcher Noah

Mets catcher Tomas Nido and starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard talk on the mound during the third inning against the San Diego Padres at Citi Field on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The paradox of Noah Syndergaard — the enigmatic reality that makes a trade possibility appealing yet terrifying — begins with some of the best raw stuff of any pitcher in baseball. It can end with absolute dominance or puzzling mediocrity. And it is difficult to know which version the Mets are going to get in any given start.

In the Mets’ 7-2 loss to the Padres on Wednesday night, Syndergaard offered a little bit of both. He lasted seven innings but allowed four runs (three earned) and eight hits. He struck out eight, but walked five, tying his career high. He was dominant in the middle innings, allowing a baserunner only when leftfielder Dominic Smith misplayed Fernando Tatis Jr.’s line drive into a double, but worked around lots of trouble early and late in his outing.

Such is life for and with Syndergaard in 2019. Consider it a glimpse of why his name is a steady presence in general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s conversations with other teams, especially this time of year with the trade deadline less than a week away, but why the Mets are so hesitant to move him.

Syndergaard said he hasn’t been told where he stands.

“I haven’t really had much of a discussion with the front office as far as the future of me being a Met,” Syndergaard said. “As of right now, I’m happy — more than happy — where I’m at right now. I look forward to continuing to put on this jersey.”

With a trade unlikely to happen this month, these bigger-picture questions are more likely to be answered in the offseason. That gives Syndergaard (4.33 ERA) two more months to impress — the Mets or anybody else — and salvage an underwhelming season.

Syndergaard got burned Wednesday by his inability to put batters away when it mattered most, which he lamented, and his defense.

In the second, Syndergaard gave Austin Hedges a two-out, 0-and-2 fastball down the heart of the plate. Hedges laced it to center for an RBI single. In the third, Hunter Renfroe, also down 0-and-2, turned a slider into an RBI single to left. Franmil Reyes doubled on a 1-and-2 count.

“I felt like I did a pretty good job getting ahead of hitters, even getting to two strikes,” Syndergaard said. “I just couldn’t put them away when I had the opportunity to.”

Said manager Mickey Callaway: “I thought he was actually pretty good. Three of the runs scored on counts that were in his favor, so he did the job of getting ahead, he just didn’t execute.”

Syndergaard has gone seven innings in three consecutive starts, tying the longest such streak of his career.

“It wasn’t as bad as the line,” Callaway said. “And I’ll tell you what: Anytime anybody goes seven, you gotta give them credit. I don’t care how many runs you give up, if you go seven as a starting pitcher, you’ve done something.”

Smith made two errors, helping to create and prolong the Padres’ three-run third, during his adventure of a night in leftfield. That trouble came less than a week after his game-ending error in San Francisco.

Among his non-error plays, Smith, a first baseman by trade, started in on a Tatis liner that went over his head for extra bases. “I haven’t had a ball hit to me like that all year,” Smith said. And in the eighth, he attempted a sliding catch on Tatis’ fly ball that went for an RBI single.

A dejected Smith said he would “probably be thinking about it all night. But that’s just the nature of being passionate and caring about the game. We get here early every day and put in so much work to be prepared for the game, and then you get your one or two chances and stuff like that happens.”

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