There are bad days, and then there are the stomach-turning, waking-nightmare, crawl-under-the-bed-type days that the Mets experienced yesterday.
How terrible was it? Put it this way: Losing Matt Harvey to season-ending surgery was the least of their problems.
Stunning, but true. By the time Friday night’s game against the Nationals began, the Mets already were past the grieving process with Harvey. Little did they realize that saying goodbye to Harvey until 2017 was merely the start. Things would get much worse.
In the fourth inning, team MVP Yoenis Cespedes, apparently injured while chasing a fly ball, had to leave with a strained right quadriceps. And while everyone was trying to process the magnitude of that loss, they were blindsided by what felt like the season’s knockout blow.
That was Noah Syndergaard walking off the mound, flanked by Terry Collins and a trainer, his night abruptly cut short in the fifth inning. After an hour, the team announced that Syndergaard exited with what was described as “arm fatigue,” adding for emphasis that it is not “elbow-related” — a phrase they flashed on the centerfield video screen to hopefully quell panic in the stands.
Afterward, Collins looked drained during his postgame news conference.
“He said his arm went dead,” he said. “It got tired on him. His stuff went away.”
Was that supposed to be good news? Only with the Mets would something as vague as “arm fatigue” be considered a positive spin. One of Harvey’s main symptoms before being diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome was a lifeless arm.
Syndergaard, standing at his locker, didn’t provide much clarity either. He’s expected to undergo a familiar battery of tests today — he already has been through two MRIs this season — but the condition he described sounded baffling. “I don’t feel any pain,” he said. “I think it’s just that time of year. I’ve thrown a lot of pitches, a lot of innings so far. It really all boils down to a little shoulder fatigue.”
We already know plenty about what’s going on inside Syndergaard’s elbow, and this sure looked like the next phase of that dreaded timeline. The physical evidence was telling. Syndergaard’s last few fastballs clocked in at 93, 93, 91 — well below his usual 98 — and Collins sprung from the dugout when the count went to 2-and-2 on Jayson Werth.
Initially, Syndergaard tried to wave off his advancing manager with his glove, but it was a half-hearted attempt. His body language suggested there was reason to worry. And after a lengthy mound conference, Syndergaard left the field.
Many had feared that this would be the expected story arc for Syndergaard, who threw too impossibly hard for mortal ligaments and bone to stay healthy. When the hysteria over his bone spur erupted earlier this month, he at first denied its existence, then called it insignificant. So what are we to believe this time?
“Right now, I need a little break,” Syndergaard said.
Cespedes bowing out yesterday was a sobering sight, and the quad strain will cost him a trip to San Diego for the All-Star Game. He’s hoping to be back in the lineup when the second half begins. As for the disappointment of not participating in the Midsummer Classic, he offered a stoic response.
“It’s part of destiny,” Cespedes said through his interpreter. “I have no control over it.”
With Syndergaard, the Mets can only hope it’s not too late. Before the game, in discussing Harvey’s departure, Collins seemed to be bracing for the next haymaker despite leading with his chin. “They’re going to go pitch, and we’ll just monitor their workload,’’ he said. “Hopefully we don’t have to go through too many more of these.”
He added ruefully, “By the way, we will, because it’s the nature of pitching.”
And embedded in the Mets’ tragic DNA, apparently.