The Subway Series could not come at a better time for the Mets, as it will give their pitchers the closest thing to a playoff experience.
These were big tests for rookies Steven Matz on Friday night and Noah Syndergaard, and they both passed. Matt Harvey takes the mound in the finale.
These are tests because Mets Manager Terry Collins has to determine sho is in the starting rotation and the bullpen for the playoffs. The Mets have six starting pitchers, with Harvey, Syndergaard, Matz, Jacob deGrom, Bartolo Colon, and Jonathon Niese. Teams need only four for a seven-game series, and three for a five-game series, so let’s see who could fill the playoff rotation.
Colon should take a spot based on his wealth of experience. Harvey should get a spot since he is generally considered the ace. deGrom is in because he has had the best season of the starters. They need a lefty, so that will be a tough choice between the veteran Niese and Matz, who has only made five starts in the major leagues this season. Syndergaard should head to the bullpen because you need a power pitcher to come in and get you an out and he is close to the dreaded innings limit.
Matz was tested early in his start, but he went six innings, and allowed just one run on seven hits, with four strikeouts and a walk. Matz was shaky in the beginning, as the Yankees got runners on base in the first two innings, but he escaped trouble aside from a sacrifice fly to Chris Young in the first innings. The Yankees didn’t get a sniff for the next four innings he pitched.
Matz passed the test because he did not have much early and was nervous, but he battled for six innings and gutted it out. It also has to be emphasized that this was just his fifth major-league start.
Syndergaard was very good at times, but two big mistakes take his grade down a notch or two. For the game, Syndergaard went six innings, allowing five runs on seven hits, with eight strikeouts and just two walks.
In the first inning, he gave up singles to Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, and then gave up a three-run homer to Carlos Beltran.
Syndergaard then settled down and retired the next twelve batters, until Dustin Ackley triped in the fifth. He then showed tremendous poise, as he struck out Didi Gregorious, then the same to pitcher Michael Pineda, and got Ellsbury to hit a weak grounder to second base to end the inning.
In the sixth inning, he gave up a single to Beltran and then made his second big mistake, as Brian McCann got a two-run homer to make it 5-0 Yankees.
Mets Manager Terry Collins said of these starts being auditions for the playoffs, “I do not because, if we’re in the postseason, and I’m sitting here, Noah Syndergaard would be starting one of the first two games. He had, like I said, the first inning, he gave up bloop single, bloop single, and a three-run home run, and then zeroes for quite a while. I don’t consider that struggling, that’s just me. If he gave up three in the first, two in the second, one in the third, that’s struggling. I didn’t see that. I saw a guy who threw the ball very well against an outstanding lineup, especially against right-handed pitching, an outstanding lineup. A-Rod’s not even in there, but they’ve got a very good lineup, so you have to make pitches. If you make a mistake, they’ve got enough power. Brian McCann’s had a heck of a year, 25 homers, you gotta make pitches. It’s human nature to miss, especially when you’re young and you throw 98 miles-an-hour, you’re gonna get hit. I thought he pitched pretty good.”
On how many home runs Syndergaard has given up this season, Collins said he wasn’t concerned and said, “It happens to a lot of pitchers. He’s a power guy and, once in a while, you’re gonna make mistakes. We have him continue to work on the command of his stuff, make sure the two-seamer stays down in the zone. If he wants it up, it has to be out of the strike zone, especially when you’re ahead in the count 1-2 like he was with Carlos (Beltran). You can’t miss in the middle of the plate, for sure, but I’m not concerned about Noah Syndergaard. I thought he threw the ball today very, very well.” What do they say, take two swings to break a game open.”
Harvey is a little different since he pitched a couple years ago and is a veteran compared to Syndergaard and Matz. Harvey has proven himself, so the pressure on him is not as great going into Sunday night. The looking thing over Harvey, of course, is the innings limit.
Collins said of Harvey, “First of all, there’s no pitch count with Matt. I don’t know why that’s coming up, there’s no pitch count. We just have to limit his workload. That’ll be my decision when I think he should come out. Obviously, if he’s working very, very hard, it might be earlier. If not, it’ll be later. He’s not going to go deep into the game. We’ll just see how he does and how they react to him.”
On how he feels when Harvey starts, Collins said, “He’s Matt Harvey, I always feel good! When I come to the ballpark and he’s pitching, there’s a smile on my face and I always think…he gets up for these kinds of games. It’s a Sunday night game, national TV, big audience, big crowd, the Yankees, he loves to pitch against the Yankees, and I expect him to step up. Unfortunately, he’ll have some reins on him. I just want him to go out there and pitch as long as I let him pitch, and pitch well.”
These starts are excellent preparation for the playoffs because the attention and pressure is similar. They can learn from mistakes in these outings and correct things so they will know what to be ready for when the playoffs begin.