No questions asked because Noah Syndergaard is now the ace of the New York Mets pitching staff. That was determined again after getting his fifth win of the season Sunday afternoon at Citi Field in leading the Mets to a 3-1 win and three-game series sweep over the Milwaukee Brewers,
But it is also the home run ball and Mets bullpen that carried this team after losing two of three to the first place Washington Nationals this week. And now the Mets are feeling confident as they travel to Washington D.C. for a brief three-game road swing. They should be confident in what is being described as a crucial series.
Crucial in late May is going overboard. Winning the series, is more important, and the Mets will do without Lucas Duda again who could be added to the disabled list with an ailing back that manager Terry Collins said, “Is a concern.”
They use the home run ball and come from behind, their third in a row Sunday. Michael Conforto hit his 8th home run in the first inning. That added the season total to 60 through their first 43 games and most in team history.
And when the Mets headed to D.C. to face the Nats, they left with probably the elite closer in the National League with Jeurys Familia who pitched a scoreless ninth inning. He is 15-for-15 in save opportunities this season, that ranks second in the majors.
So they are confident, despite using the home run ball to score most of their runs. And while Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom try and work out their issues on the mound there is Syndergaard, 5-2, 1.94 ERA), and Steven Matz (6-1, 2.81 ERA) who have picked up the slack along with a soon to be 43-year old Bartolo Colon.
Colon, (3-3, 3.75 ERA) gets the start which opens the series Monday night against Gio Gonzalez (3-1, 1.86 ERA) who won the middle game of three for the Nationals Wednesday night at Citi Field.
“Got him deep into a game and he made pitches when he had to,” Manager Terry Collins said about the 7.0 innings and one-run, unearned that his new ace pitched. Pitches that topped 100-MPH again and an effective curve at 93 that Collins has described as “The Hook From Hell.”
“This guy just bears down,” Mets captain David Wright said. “He’s making himself into, even when he doesn’t have his best stuff, one of the best in the game.” The righthander struck out 11 and walked none, his third double-digit strikeout game of the season,
Deep in the game also gave the Mets pen that needed break. And that pen has tossed 14.1 scoreless innings in their last four games, including two more from Jim Henderson and Familia that nailed the sweep on Sunday.
Familia said,“No issue I can work everyday if I need to.” It’s not a three-headed Monster version the Yankees have in the Bronx, but the Mets pen has become reliable, though Collins was hoping not to go with his closer in the ninth with a two-run cushion.
“These guys prove they can get big outs,” Collins said about his bullpen.
It is Syndergaard that has no issues with his velocity. Collins, though has that concern for Duda, and with Wilmer Flores due to come off the disabled list Friday, when the Mets come home to open a championship 1986 reunion weekend with the Dodgers, there may have to be added help coming from their Triple-A Las Vegas affiliate.
Ty Kelly, the 27-year old infielder who also can play left, reportedly is the candidate getting the call with his .391 average, three-home runs and 15 RBI. TJ Rivera, the Bronx native, and ripping the ball in the PCL, is another logical choice to fill the roster if Duda goers on the DL, all pending on a report from doctors at the Hospital of Special Surgery.
As Wright said, “We have a chance to redeem ourselves,” regarding the three games again upcoming against the Nationals. And perhaps there is that need to get some more pop in the lineup, getting the extra base hit and not relying on the home run ball. Conforto made that jump from Double-A Binghamton at the trading deadline in late July last season.
And, that was a cornerstone of the Mets offense getting more hits, along with the acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes who went 1-for-3 Sunday but got his league and team leading 14th home run Saturday in the Mets come from behind win.
“We got a little extra behind us,” Conforto said about facing the Nationals six times in a week. “Good thing is we came back in three games and that resilience is something we haven’t seen all year. We keep fighting and getting back into the driver’s seat and let Familia close it out. Noah was awesome today. We really locked it down.”
And by no means, even if the Mets take two of three or sweep the Nationals this week, will the division be locked down. It is a series again that is significant because these are the two teams expected to battle to the end for the division lead in the NL East.
“He has the stuff to do it,” Rene Rivera said about Syndergaard. The backup catcher has been getting the starts to give Kevin Plawecki some rest. Rivera said the Mets new ace has the capability of striking out 20 with the stuff he throws and command.
But right now, Collins hopes that Harvey and deGrom can get back to form. The home runs will still come and Familia appears to have added that elite mark to his resume, and there are more tests to come including the league leading Chicago Cubs,
But the Mets may need some more punch in that lineup or from an eventual call-up, though Asdrubal Cabrera who singled in two runs in the fourth inning to give the Mets their lead has been an RBI threat, 5-for his last 9, and six RBI in that span.
The look term absence of Duda from the lineup will take away some of that home run punch., even if his long balls come in spurts, But the Mets realize there is a long way to go til September and with Noah, Familia and company they take that confidence to D.C. this week.
Comment Rich Mancuso: [email protected] [email protected] Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso