Noah Syndergaard can't catch a break, and neither can the Mets

NEW YORK — It’s all there in the numbers, but it goes so far beyond the numbers.Entering his start Friday night against the Nationals, Noah Syndergaard had held opposing hitters to a .243/.286/.356 line this year, numbers inflated at least a bit by the batting average on balls in play against him rising from .282 in 2015 to .336 this season. Whereas last year, Syndergaard had a 3.24 ERA and 3.25 FIP, he came into this game with a 2.55 ERA and 2.31 FIP. MORE: Best pitcher last names of the past 100 yearsThese are advanced ways of saying that Syndergaard has pitched to some bad luck. Not a ton, but enough so that you would notice things aren’t totally going his way. This can also be summed up in an old-style way that is easily enough understood: 12-7 with a 2.55 ERA. Syndergaard’s ERA jumped Friday night, up a point to 2.56, and the loss total ticked up to eight as the Nationals pulled away late for a 4-1 verdict that dropped the Mets 10.5 games behind Washington in the East and cost New York a chance to gain ground in a wild-card race where every other contender lost. This was because the 24-year-old right-hander allowed two earned runs over seven innings, even though Washington had only four baserunners against him, on three hits and one walk.There’s a bit of bad luck in four baserunners turning into two runs, namely in the distribution of those baserunners. Syndergaard worked five clean innings, but it was the other two that got him.“Against a very, very good lineup, he kept us right where we needed to be,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “Rough night, we didn’t give him much support, but he pitched well.”Bryce Harper’s double to the gap in left-center field in the fourth inning was walloped well, to be sure, and he came in to score on a hard single up the middle by Wilson Ramos. That RBI hit, hard hit though it was, still was just a ground ball. Hit 10 feet to the left or 10 feet to the right, or with a friendlier hop into Syndergaard’s own glove, and it’s a routine out that nobody remembers instead of a big hit.Earlier, the fickle fingers of fate were even more pronounced in the way they poked and prodded the Mets toward an October full of golf instead of defending their National League title. Syndergaard got to an 0-2 count on Nationals leadoff man Trea Turner, then buzzed a 98 mph fastball at Turner’s knees, right on the inside corner. It was a pitcher’s pitch, and Turner had no choice but to swing. He made weak contact, good for a bloop that had an exit velocity of 71 mph. When it came down 204 feet from home plate, it found safe harbor in the grass behind first base.MORE: The Cubs are great, but are they really on a World Series path?The single turned into essentially a triple because Syndergaard’s one weakness is that he is the easiest pitcher in baseball to steal bases against, and before Jayson Werth’s at-bat was even done, Turner wa

s on third base.“Turner’s got unbelievable speed, but I’ve got to give Rene (Rivera, the catcher) a chance,” Syndergaard said. “Cut down on my delivery; it’s a little too slow and methodical.”Werth lined out, Daniel Murphy walked, and then Harper did something that further encapsulated just how wrong things are for Syndergaard and the Mets.The reigning National League MVP, having a rough season in his own right, sent a lazy fly ball to shallow center field. Curtis Granderson played it perfectly, lining himself up behind the ball to get some momentum on his throw to the plate. It was a close play, and had Rivera held onto the ball, it would have been a tough call, though Rivera told Sporting News he thought Turner beat the throw. That it was Granderson throwing from center also was part of the story of the Mets’ season — he’s there because New York traded for Jay Bruce (who has struggled mightily) to play right field, pushing Granderson to the position he used to play.The opening day center fielder, the rocket-armed Yoenis Cespedes, now plays left. With Cespedes throwing, it’s unlikely that Turner scores — he might not even try on a ball as shallow as the one Harper hit. That is a particularly cruel twist because Cespedes really is a left fielder, with famous misadventures in center in both last year’s World Series and in the opener this year.MORE: Why Kris Bryant will be the next Derek JeterThe World Series seems a long way away for the Mets now, the fragility of their hopes growing with every night at the park like this one. Before this game, the Mets announced Jacob deGrom would miss his next start with inflammation in his throwing arm. The fans who came to this game received T-shirts reading, in a cartoon font, “DUDA SMASH!” as an homage to the injured first baseman who has been thoroughly missed all season, having played only 39 games.In this game, the hits just kept on coming — for Syndergaard, at precisely the wrong moments in a year when the Mets have had more than their share.

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