For the third time this week, the Mets scratched a pitcher a day before his next scheduled start. This time, the dubious distinction belonged to righthander Noah Syndergaard, who will no longer pitch against the Phillies on Saturday because of strep throat.
Syndergaard had been strategically lined up to start in the final series of the year and then in a National League wild- card game on Oct. 5, should the Mets qualify. But his illness may force a shuffle of the rotation, depriving the Mets the luxury of choosing when to use their hardest-throwing starter.
“Right now, in our situation, we can’t worry about Oct. 5,” Mets manager Terry Collins said.
Of course, there may be no shortage of critical games for Syndergaard to pitch.
The Mets began the night tied with the Giants for the two NL wild cards, with the Cardinals a game behind after they lost Friday afternoon. If the three teams finish with the same record, a scenario exists in which the Mets would play two tiebreaker games on the way to an appearance in the wild-card game.
But it will be a few more days until the Mets know how Syndergaard will slot into the rotation, which has been crushed by injuries.
“We’re just hoping right now that the medication, with some rest, with some nourishment, that he gets some energy back to where maybe he can pitch Monday, Tuesday,” Collins said.
Both Syndergaard and Bartolo Colon were slated to pitch in the final series of the season. But on the off chance that those games don’t prove to be crucial, Collins said both could have their turns pushed back.
Syndergaard had been instructed to stay out of the clubhouse the previous two days but returned Friday, when he played catch on flat ground before the Mets’ game against the Phillies.
Lefthander Sean Gilmartin will start Saturday in place of Syndergaard.
“At this time of year, it doesn’t matter,” Gilmartin said. “I’ll go as long as they need me to go.”