Noah Syndergaard completed his long journey Saturday night.
It began on the mound in Washington on April 30 when the Mets’ ace righthander threw a pitch, grabbed under his arm and had to come out of the game. It ended on the mound Saturday night at Citi Field with Syndergaard pitching a scoreless first inning in what would become a 4-3, 10-inning loss to the Nationals before 34,455.
Former Met Daniel Murphy hit his 23rd homer off Jacob Rhame to start the 10th and send the Nationals to the win.
Long gone from Syndergaard’s rearview mirror are the arm stiffness that pushed that start to Washington, his refusal to get an MRI before pitching again and the diagnosis of a partially torn right lat muscle. Having accomplished the goal of getting big-league hitters out again this season, he can see a normal offseason and healthy 2018.
“I felt really good out there . . . I put in a lot of work in the last four or five months to get back out there. I hoped it would be under different circumstances, but it will be good to hopefully finish the season on a high note,” said Syndergaard, who is scheduled to make one more start. “I felt like I needed it just because I put in so much work the past five months, I felt I needed to get something out of it or else what was I really doing? We could have just shut it down.”
Syndergaard threw only five pitches: a slider for a ball and four fastballs for strikes that clocked 98 or 99 mph. He allowed a single by Jayson Werth, then erased him when Murphy hit the next pitch hard on the ground for a double play.
“The feedback I got from [catcher Kevin] Plawecki was that even though I gave up some hard-hit balls, it was definitely where I wanted it and had good movement,” Syndergaard said.
Matt Harvey came out of the bullpen for the first time in his career to start the second. His fifth outing since coming off the disabled list with a stress injury to his right scapula had some positive signs, though he allowed three runs in four innings.
Harvey’s fastball crackled at 95 mph throughout his 80-pitch appearance and manager Terry Collins said his slider started to look like the Harvey slider of old. Nevertheless, the Mets handed him a 3-0 lead with three runs in the third and he gave it all back. Adam Lind hit a two-run homer with two outs in the fourth and Matt Wieters hit a solo shot to start the fifth.
Harvey has a 12.27 ERA in five outings since his return, but he didn’t beat himself up as he did after his previous outing.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done,” he said. “I’m not happy about the two home runs. I threw a lot of balls I felt better throwing: a couple good sliders, a couple good fastballs . . . I think everything is coming. The frustration took over. I wish it had come right away. But obviously it hasn’t, and it hasn’t all year.
“Having the success that I did before the injuries and wanting to do everything I can to be as dominant as I’d been in the past, it’s frustrating to go out there and struggle and not figure out why you are struggling. To put the work in between starts and feel good about it and then not have success — it’s been hard.”
Conforto optimistic. Michael Conforto said the approximate timetable for a return to baseball activities from his Sept. 6 shoulder surgery is six months. He could not promise that he will be able to start the 2018 season on time but said: “I can tell you I’m going to do everything I can to be ready as soon as possible. At the same time, I want to be ready to play at the same level I was playing at when I do come back.”
Conforto wore a cumbersome stabilizing sling as he gave his first interview since his Aug. 24 injury. He dislocated his left shoulder and suffered a torn posterior capsule while swinging at a fastball from Robbie Ross, then crumpled to the ground in the batter’s box. The injury ended a breakout season in which Conforto had a .279/.384/.555 slash line, 27 home runs and 68 RBIs and was picked for the All-Star team.