January 30, 2023

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'When it rains, it pours': Thor has shortest start of career

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It was an out-of-ordinary performance for the Mansfield, Texas, native. The last time he pitched in his home state — which also happened to be the first — he struck out four in six innings on the way to his second win of the season.

But when Syndergaard took the mound again Monday, the Rangers knocked in hit after hit and run after run against him to a point where his pitch count was pushing 45 before he even registered three outs.

“When it rains, it pours, you know. I just didn’t get the job done,” Syndergaard said. “I’ve got to have a short-term memory, but also learn from mistakes, learn from this outing, make sure it never happens again.”

Four runs, two mound visits and 42 pitches into the first inning, manager Joe Maddon pulled Syndergaard and brought in Jaime Barría to work the Angels out of a bases-loaded jam with two outs.

“He just didn’t have his better stuff. From the first hitter on, it was just difficult. They stole some bases, put some pressure on us that way,” Maddon said. “I was wanting him to get through that first inning and it didn’t happen and then we had to do what we did. We knew we had a limited bullpen tonight so I was trying to hold off as well as we could.”

Two more runs came across before Barría closed out what would be a nearly 50-minute first inning with the Rangers leading 6-3.

Barría tossed 4 1/3 scoreless innings and struck out four, though two of Syndergaard’s runners scored off one of the three hits he allowed in relief. Maddon later praised Barría and the rest of the bullpen for how they finished off the game.

“Barría was outstanding,” Maddon said. Between [Barría], among the three relievers, they did a wonderful job and gave us a chance to win the game.”

The Angels never recovered offensively from that inning, which came after they started off hot with four hits and three runs in the top of the first.

“We hit some balls really good,” Maddon said. “It was kind of an unlucky offensive night. The way we started the game was beautiful.”

Those 42 pitches were the most thrown by Syndergaard in a single inning, and it was the shortest outing of his Major League career. The last time he saw an inning close to that was Aug. 28, 2019, against the Cubs. He gave up six runs on five hits in a 39-pitch first inning.

Syndergaard went three innings in that game. The Mets lost 10-7 and his final line shook out to 3 IP, 9 H, 10 R (nine earned), 1 BB, 5 K’s, 3 HR. On Monday, he walked two and struck out one while allowing six runs (four earned) in two-thirds of an inning.

Coming into the series, Syndergaard — now 3-2 on the season — held a 2.45 ERA, which jumped to 3.60 following the loss.

Over two years removed from Tommy John surgery, Syndergaard said everything felt good mechanically, but he’s still tinkering.

“I feel like today was a step in the right direction, but the results would say otherwise. Delivery is getting better and better, it’s just right now I’m kind of searching to figure it out; get back to what it used to be,” Syndergaard added. “I feel like I’m so close but still so far. But it’s encouraging because you don’t want it to be easy.”

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