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The game within the game: World Series Game 3 - Noah Syndergaard against time

How much of it does he have in his World Series start?

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MLB: San Diego Padres at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Each game of this National League Championship Series, we’re going to take a microlevel look at an intriguing matchup of the day.

Tonight’s matchup: Noah Syndergaard against time

Halloween is when tricks are made if you don’t produce a treat. Were you a person that celebrated the holiday when you were younger, you undoubtedly recited the rhyme that involved smelling feet and underwear, a threat against common decency that was meant to elicit treats from unsuspecting neighbors. No one actually believed that if you rebelled against this vague form of extortion that retaliation was inevitable, but still, the mere threat made you rush out in the weeks before to make sure you were stocked with candy.

In much the same way, Noah Syndergaard is threatening the Phillies with a start that will either be a trick or a treat. We know for a near fact that Syndergaard will not face this Astros lineup a third time as that has been the pattern Thomson has followed with anyone not named Wheeler or Nola this postseason. There is a possibility that a predetermined cap has already been placed on Syndergaard, probably in the neighborhood of twelve batters or three innings, whichever happens first. Of course, if he is facing twelve batters in two innings, the Phillies are in trouble. After that, the bullpen will be used and used heavily. The quartet of Dominguez, Alvarado, Robertson and Eflin have four to five innings somewhere in them, whatever the combination might be, so there remains one or two innings the Phillies need to cover.

But what if Syndergaard is able to go those extra innings?

At first thought, I had assumed that Syndergaard’s numbers when facing batters a third time through the order were going to be extremely poor, but it isn’t some horror show when batters do see him a third time.

1st PA, as a SP: .261/.296/.379
2nd PA, as a SP: .233/.282/.399
3rd PA, as a SP: .294/.354/.420

No one is claiming those are good numbers, but admit it: you thought they were going to be much worse didn’t you?

The key for Syndergaard tonight is going to be his arsenal and how he uses it. Since his trade to Philadelphia, pitching coach Caleb Cotham has gotten him to focus more on the hard stuff and kind of ditch the stuff that is lower in velocity.

Location will be an issue when he is using his sinker as we saw on Saturday night when Wheeler decided to pump fastballs down the middle of the plate. Houston’s big guns - Alvarez, Bregman, et al - struggle with pitches like the slider and cutter, so perhaps this is why Thomson decided Syndergaard over Ranger Suarez for game three.

Regardless, Syndergaard could be an X-factor for the Phillies. If he is good enough that he gives them three or even four innings tonight, that’s a huge treat for the team. It will mean they won’t have to expose some of the soft underbelly of the bullpen to the hot hitting Astros. If he’s getting shelled, it’ll be the Astros who play the tricks on the Phillies.