NEW YORK — It was not the kind of start right-hander Noah Syndergaard envisioned for his return to New York on Tuesday.
Syndergaard, who pitched for the Mets from 2015-21, was hit hard by the Yankees and lasted just 2 1/3 innings in a 9-1 loss in the series opener at Yankee Stadium. Syndergaard gave up five runs on seven hits and one walk to see his ERA rise by nearly a run from 3.08 to 4.02. And it marked the sixth straight defeat for the Angels, who have dropped 10 of 13.
“It’s obvious the team has been in a little bit of a skid right now, so it would’ve been nice to come out and turn that around,” Syndergaard said. “But I dropped the ball and didn’t get the job done. You have to have a short memory and focus on the next one.”
The right-hander wasn’t fooling anyone, as he didn’t record any strikeouts and registered just one swing and miss among his 45 pitches. He’s still working to recover his velocity from before his Tommy John surgery in March 2020, as his fastball averaged 93.8 mph but was routinely in the high-90s with the Mets pre-surgery.
Syndergaard, who signed a one-year deal worth $21 million last offseason, has mostly pitched well this season outside of his start against the Yankees and a rough outing against the Rangers on May 16. But he has had trouble getting whiffs and has struck out just 27 batters in 40 1/3 innings.
“You have to be patient,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “His last start he was eight [innings] and 93 pitches, and he looked wonderful. Today was not so good. But the one before the eight and 93 was also a short one, but the one before that was good. So it’s one of those situations where you can’t jump to conclusions. You have to be patient and trust the guy.”
He found himself in trouble right away, as Syndergaard gave up four runs in the first inning. He surrendered back-to-back RBI doubles to Anthony Rizzo and Gleyber Torres before serving up a two-run homer to Matt Carpenter to right field. The homer wasn’t crushed — it had an expected batting average of .150 according to Statcast — but it was hit in the right spot with the short porch in right field.
Syndergaard said he felt some tightness in his upper body in the first inning and knew it could be a long night when his first three pitches were balls and he walked the second hitter of the inning in Aaron Judge. He also added that the pressure had nothing to do with pitching in New York.
“I felt pressure and tension in that first inning,” Syndergaard said. “Baseball is a funny thing. You can have a really good start and then six days later it’s the complete opposite. My prep work in between starts felt really good, but then I was pressing the whole time and trying to throw a ball through a garden hose instead of just being free and easy and letting it rip. I was really aiming the ball up there and falling behind in counts.”
Syndergaard gave up another run in the second on an RBI double from DJ LeMahieu and was taken out in the third after giving up a single to Torres and a deep fly ball to center field to Miguel Andújar.
“It just didn’t seem like he had good finish on his pitches, for a lack of a better way of putting it,” Maddon said. “When he’s really good, he has that little thing at the end where the sinker really dives. I didn’t see that today. And the changeup, the hitters are going to tell what his changeup is like by their swings.”
Lefty Kenny Rosenberg, who was recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake before the game, replaced Syndergaard and helped save the bullpen by going five innings and 99 pitches in relief in just his second career appearance. The Angels couldn’t hold late leads in three straight losses to the Blue Jays over the weekend, so the length Rosenberg gave was especially important. The only other reliever they used on the night was Archie Bradley, who recorded two outs in the eighth.
“Kudos to Kenny for giving the bullpen some continued rest,” Syndergaard said. “He gave us some length.”