When you can’t stop losing, everything is impossible. It doesn’t help when one of the National League’s best pitchers is on the mound, confident and god-like, self-assured in his belief that he is going to leave your bats cold and silent.
But all Noah Syndergaard really proved tonight, facing a Phillies lineup he seemed primed to dominate, was that he is no god. Just a man with ridiculous hair.
Aarons Nola and Altherr played key roles in the evening’s rubber match, both getting a less than nightly start they could use to boost their reputations. Nola was skewered by curious eyes, lingering concerns about his arm health fading as his pitches flickered and danced around the plate, missing their spots a few more times than necessary. But he did not last long - a mere five innings, exposing the Phillies cushy bullpen to the ravenous, slobbering Mets lineup. There would be seven hits against Nola, along with four earned runs, four walks (ew), and only two strikeouts, on 96 pitches - 61 of which were strikes. He failed to put away a lot of hitters on 0-2 counts, including the aforementioned pitcher.
On the other side was Syndergaard, an outspoken scamp with hair he thinks can serve as a personality. Syndergaard toyed with Phillies fans his last time through, claiming their use of the wave was the reason their team had been ten-runned by his team. He likely had not predicted the Mets would be on the cusp of a series loss - in fact, two runs away from a sweep - at the hands of a team they’d struck down 14-4 only days earlier. But, here we were, and here Syndergaard was. When he set the Phillies down in order chucking triple digit heat in the first, he did not appear too fazed.
But, in the unfair way that baseball allows them to without warning, things changed.
Altherr was eager to make the impression everyone was pretty certain he could make. With one out, he muscled the first hit off Syndergaard, ending the theory that the blonde-haired America-hater was on the verge of a perfect game moving at 100 mph. Tommy Joseph was up next and swatted a 101 mph pitch into the right field corner, scoring Altherr, who had, oh yeah, stolen second base because he wanted to. Clearly freaking out, Syndergaard threw a wild pitch that moved Joseph to third, allowing him to score on Freddy Galvis’ infield single. Then it was
the plumber who "forgot his tools—well... except for one" Andrew Knapp’s turn to make an impression with an RBI ground-rule double. Thoughts of the lovable, but ineffective, Cameron Rupp losing his starting catching job became the talk of the town.
The Mets left the inning stunned, down 3-0 with their best pitcher on the mound. They answered in the second with a run off Nola, but Maikel Franco, who was also discovering the wonders of putting the bat on the ball this night, smashed an RBI double in the third, followed by an RBI ground-out from Altherr to make it 5-1. But in the bottom of the evening, Nola threw a bad pitch. Neil Walker got a hold of it with two runners on, and suddenly, the not-quite-comfortable lead was down to one run.
Things stabilized at this point for a couple of innings; Syndergaard started logging K’s; Nola walked a couple more guys. Franco’s hot night continued in the eighth with an insurance home run that just cleared the fence, giving the Phillies’ bullpen an iota of breathing room, which they used. Joey Rodriguez struck his way out of a jam and gave the Phillies two clean innings as Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen discussed how in the NL East, with all the Harper's and Bruce's on the loose, a reliable lefty reliever is essential. Joaquin Benoit allowed a hit but no trouble, and then it was Hector Neris who closed things out, setting the Mets down in order and giving the Phillies a much-needed series win.
And on April 20 as the smoke cleared, the Phillies secured a 5-7 record against their NL East rivals.
Rest up. The Braves touch down in Philly tomorrow.