(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
The opener of a three game set between the Mets and San Diego Padres saw big changes around Citi field with the acquisition of Tyler Clippard, the suspension of Jenrry Mejia, and even a David Wright sighting.
But there was a game to play between ace starters Noah Syndergaard of the Mets and James Shields of the Padres, who entered into a thrilling and very fast moving pitchers’ duel that ended in a 4-0 Mets victory.
Shields was sharp but gave up Lucas Duda’s 15th home run of the year to score two in the first inning. Those runs proved to be the difference in the contest.
The 22 year-old Syndergaard’s performance was almost a duplicate of Clayton Kershaw’s win over the Mets five days earlier. Both hurlers easily retired the first 18 batters they faced, and appeared to be well on their way to pitching a perfect game. The Texas native fanned seven of the first 18 Padres while Kershaw fanned eight of the first 18 Mets.
But the perfectos ended the same way with each losing team’s lead-off batter breaking up the quest for history. Centerfielder Will Veneble – a second generation major leaguer – singled to center to become the Padres first base runner. Former Yankee third baseman Yangervis Solarte followed with a single as Veneble advanced to third on an error by Rúben Tejada.
Syndergaard did not appeared phased either by losing the perfect game or even being in a scoring situation. He got power hitting Matt Kemp to pop out to second and Justin Upton to ground into an inning ending double play. Last Thursday, Kershaw had also given up two singles in the seventh but prevented the Mets from scoring.
Mets manager Terry Collins spoke with high praise of the right-hander’s development: “I don’t think any of us could have predicted he’d be where he’s at this fast. He’s an absolute sponge learning what to do to stay here. These kids are good. They’re not normal guys.”
Syndergaard gave up a lead-off single to Yonder Alonso in the eighth, but easily handled the next three batters on an infield pop out and two strikeouts.
Collins explained to reporters why he lifted Syndergaard after his eight inning masterpiece: “I was going to lift him after 110 pitches regardless of the situation. I know he wanted to go out there in the ninth to pitch a shutout.”
The rookie tied his career high by pitching eight innings. He yielded only three singles and walked none. while fanning nine. Although Syndergaard’s record currently is only at .500 (5-5), in his last six starts, he is 3-1 with 1.29 ERA and has held opposing batters to a .164 batting average.
Curtis Granderson added insurance with a two run homer in the eighth while Clippard closed the game successfully in the ninth.