(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
For the Mets, and their pitchers in particular, this weekend is about gaining the trust of Manager Terry Collins and going into the playoffs strong.
That was on display in Saturday’s doubleheader, as Noah Syndergaard took the mound for Game 1 and Matt Harvey in the nightcap.
Syndergaard delivered, as he went seven innings, and was throwing a shutout until Clint Robinson drilled one into the Pepsi Porch for a solo home run. He allowed just that run on two hits and a walk, and struck out 10 in seven innings.
He finishes the regular season with a 9-7 record and a 3.24 ERA. At Citi Field, he went 7-2 in his 12 starts, and had a 2.24 ERA, allowing just 23 earned runs in 84 innings. Seven of his starts at Citi Field went at least seven innings.
Syndergaard had 166 strikeouts, fifth-most for a Mets rookie, behind Doc Gooden with 276, Jerry Koosman with 178, Tom Seaver with 170, and Jon Matlack with 169. Syndergaard’s 9.96 K/9 ratio is the second-best mark for a rookie in franchise history, behind Gooden’s 11.39 K/9 in 1984. His 1.09 WHIP is the best ever for a rookie. His strikeouts, K/9 ratio, and WHIP lead major-league rookies this season.
Collins said of how he would evaluate Syndergaard’s season as a whole and how he has earned his trust, “No question, he came prepared, he came up here, obviously, with the feeling of this big power arm, which he’s got, which we saw, but he’s a pitcher. This guy throws a lot more strikes, you would think, a young man with that kind of arm and that size, you know, for years and years, they always talked about these big tall guys having a tough time maintaining their command because there’s so many moving parts that it’s surprising how much he pounds the strike zone. That’s what I was most impressed as he went through the season, just, you know, he throws strikes and he makes you swing the bat. That’s why I think he’s gonna be a good pitcher. The stuff speaks for itself.”
On Syndergaard getting command of his curveball down the stretch, Collins said, “Well, I think the command of it, I mean, obviously he hung one to (Clint) Robinson (for the home run), but other than that, he keeps the ball down, and changeups, really are one of the big factors. This guy throws so hard, and his changeup’s 88-89 miles-an-hour, and they gave to gear up for the fastball. The last couple of outings, he’s used his offspeed stuff early in the game and he’s made it pretty easy for himself, very impressed with him today, he pitched a great game.”
Syndergaard has carried himself very well and has had a great temperament for a rookie. Collins said of that, “He’s grown up fast and in this market, and I’ve just been impressed with everything he does. He works hard and he listens, he tries things, he picked up the two-seamer in one bullpen, I mean, this guy wants to be good and he’s gonna be good.”
Collins said of what he has seen of Niese the two times he has come out of the bullpen, “The one thing about Jon Niese – Jon Niese is a perpetual strike-thrower, and when you come out of the bullpen, hitters are swinging early; that’s just what you tell guys when you see a relief pitcher. One thing about starting pitchers is they kind of work the zone a bit more; relievers, they come out, they want to get strike one. That’s where he’s been hit because strike one is on the middle of the plate someplace. It’s a process and that’s why we’re trying to get him as much work as we can to get him to understand, look, you know, you can be yourself, he doesn’t have to come in, and it’s one thing, especially with the bullpens today everybody is so overpowering; Jon’s not like that, he’s just gotta make some pitches.”
Another Mets pitcher, Jonathon Niese, has eight years of experience as a starting pitcher, but he needs to earn Collins’ trust in the role of the primary left-hander out of the bullpen for the playoffs. The Mets will be using Steven Matz as their lefty in the playoff starting rotation.
Niese has come out of the bullpen three times, on Tuesday in Philadelphia, when he allowed a run on three hits in 1 2/3 innings, and then pitched 1/3 of an inning he next night and allowing a hit. On Saturday in Game 1, he pitched the ninth and allowed a hit and a walk.
On if Niese has to change anything in his new role, Collins said, “Well, the one thing about lefties, and left-on-left, they’re hunting the heater, they’re hunting the fastball, and they’re hunting it early, so I just think, we talked about this the other day, look, don’t be afraid to use something else and don’t be afraid to miss with it because you can throw strikes, you know, if you fall behind, you fall behind, but he’s a good enough pitcher, he can throw strikes. It’s a work in progress and we don’t have a lot of time, but we’re trying to get him in there.”
In the nightcap, Matt Harvey delivered his third straight strong outing, as he went six inning and allowed just one run, which was unearned on four hits and he struck out 11.
It appears that Harvey has gotten past the whole 180-innings controversy, as he has passed that number seemingly without issue. He pitched very well against the Yankees on the 20th, when he pitched five shutout innings and allowed just one hit and struck out seven. He then wound up pitching the Eastern Division clincher in Cincinnati on the 26th, and that night he went six innings and allowed two runs on nine hits and struck out six.
The one thing that was similar in his start Saturday night to the one against the Yankees was that Hansel Robles relieves him and did not deliver.
On Saturday night, in the seventh with one out, Robles gave up an opposite-field home run to Dan Uggla. He wound up striking out the other three hitters he faced.
Robles gave up five runs on three hits and a walk against the Yankees. That night was a playoff atmosphere and an outing like that is one that really saps trust in a young pitcher.
Robles is what I would call a 50/50 pitcher, in that he either is very good or very bad. There really is no in-between with him, and the numbers bear that out, as he is 4-3 with a 3.57 ERA, which is pretty high for a reliever, and a 1.02 WHIP, as he has allowed 36 hits, 7 of which are home runs and 18 walks in 53 innings pitched.
The bottom line is Robles cannot be trusted in the playoffs, with the three primary right-handers out of the bullpen being Addison Reed, Tyler Clippard, and closer Jeurys Familia.