PHILADELPHIA — A hard season for the Mets has contained hard lessons for Noah Syndergaard, and his start in a 4-0 loss to the Phillies on Wednesday night furthered that idea.
The defeat dropped the Mets to 70-82, clinching their eighth losing season in 10 years.
“[In] 2015, we went on that huge run and it was the best time of our lives,” Syndergaard said. “Over the last few years, it’s been really difficult as a player.”
Syndergaard lasted only four innings, matching his shortest outing of the season, and allowed three runs, four hits and three walks. He struck out six. Rhys Hoskins and Odubel Herrera homered. It bumped Syndergaard’s ERA up to a still-good 3.36 and WHIP to 1.27.
But in four starts against Philadelphia (78-73), Syndergaard has a 5.75 ERA and 1.97 WHIP. Those are his worst numbers against any team except the Cubs, whom he faced once (four runs, six innings). For Syndergaard, the poor performance against a division rival underscores his underwhelming season, despite a 12-4 record.
“He has learned this year that sheer talent and raw ability only gets you so far,” pitching coach Dave Eiland said. “Because you’re facing the best hitters in the world.”
Among Syndergaard’s lessons this year is a classic: He needs to pitch, not just throw. That means throwing his fastball inside, elevating when needed, changing speeds. “You can’t try to strike everybody out,” Eiland said. “You can’t just overpower everybody.”
And then there is paying attention to — and, one step further, controlling — the running game. Making hitters uncomfortable. Sometimes pitching to contact, especially when his pitch count is up, as it was Wednesday (23 or more pitches in three out of four innings).
Syndergaard said he has worked all season on changing his delivery — a monumental task, given that he “has been doing things the wrong way for what seems to be seven or eight years,” he said. He is trying to keep his shoulder closed — instead of “flying open” — which should prevent hitters from seeing his fastball so early, as well as stop his two-seamer from drifting toward the middle of the plate.
The goal, Syndergaard said, is to be more like Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler.
“I’m just realizing I need to change a little bit because it’s something that’s been ingrained in my mind for the longest time,” Syndergaard said. “With my fastball and how hard I throw it, I’ve realized I’m not getting the same amount of swing-and-misses as I’d like to be — whereas Jacob or Wheeler, they have the ability to really stay closed and have that explosive fastball. That’s something I definitely want to emulate in my mechanics.”