After back-to-back outings in which Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler surrendered seven walks and Jacob deGrom, the team’s ace, gave up three home runs, Manager Mickey Callaway knew his prized pitching staff needed a strong start Wednesday.
“Unfortunately, we’re not clicking on all cylinders right now,” Callaway said. “We have a great pitching staff and will at some point, but we’ve got to weather the storm.”
Noah Syndergaard (1-1) stepped into the center of it at Citi Field. In need of a win to manage a split against the Twins, he struck out the game’s first batter and then, even as he allowed a few runs to score, managed to help himself in a few key ways. It was enough to give the Mets a 9-6 win and to improve their record to 7-4.
“That was much needed,” Callaway said. “We needed a starter to go really deep. That’s Noah Syndergaard.”
For a change, the Mets watched the opposing pitching staff lose all command. Five Minnesota pitchers issued 10 walks — six in a raucous six-run fifth inning.
“They just didn’t make good pitches,” said Mets right fielder Michael Conforto, who was 1 for 3 with a walk and three runs batted in. “They were out of the zone.”
While Syndergaard, who gave up four earned runs over seven innings, was solid for most of the night, the Mets’ bats were silent for four innings. Then Jeff McNeil slapped a single to left field. Amed Rosario and J.D. Davis both drew walks to load the bases for Syndergaard, who had executed a sacrifice bunt in the third inning.
The first pitch to Syndergaard went to the backstop, and catcher Mitch Garver retrieved it on a ricochet. McNeil, then on third base, started to run home, stopped and failed to get back to third before Garver threw to pitcher Jake Odorizzi, who was covering home. Odorizzi then threw to third baseman Willians Astudillo, who tagged out McNeil.
The Mets were not done walking. Syndergaard drew one, too, and that was it for Odorizzi. Andrew Vasquez, a lefty, entered the game, and proceeded to hit Brandon Nimmo in the back with a pitch, scoring Rosario. Vasquez then forced in two more runs with walks to Pete Alonso and Robinson Cano.
When asked about his team’s approach, Callaway joked: “Keep on taking! Don’t swing!”
Out went Vasquez; in came Trevor Hildenberger, who couldn’t manage a strike against Conforto, forcing in the Mets’ fourth run of the inning. Hildenberger did throw a strike on his third pitch to Wilson Ramos, but the catcher connected with it, singling to right and bringing in two more runs for a 6-1 lead.
The Mets welcomed it all as they readied to travel to Atlanta for a four-game series at the start of a 10-game road trip that will include stops in Philadelphia and St. Louis.
Syndergaard’s start, while far from perfect, helped ease concerns about the team’s pitching. The Mets’ staff had been a mess in recent days. Wheeler called his seven walks in Sunday’s loss to the Nationals “embarrassing.” DeGrom said he “couldn’t locate anything” against the Twins one start after he struck out 14 Marlins.
“We need to keep these games a little bit closer so we’re in striking range,” Callaway said.
To bolster the staff, the Mets recalled the right-hander Corey Oswalt from Class AAA Syracuse before Wednesday’s game, sending down Tim Peterson. Peterson had followed Wheeler in Sunday’s walk fest, issuing five free passes of his own.
“I think our offense has been able to pick us up and get us to where we’re at,” Callaway said. “I’m pretty excited where we are at, given how we’ve pitched. They’ll pick up the slack and get it going here soon.”
Syndergaard, for seven innings, more than picked up the slack against Minnesota, allowing just one run. While he and Jeurys Familia combined to allow four runs in the eighth, and Edwin Diaz allowed one more in the ninth, the Mets managed to stave off a third straight loss.
Syndergaard said fatigue had set in during his final inning, but that he wanted to make a statement for the starting rotation.
“I think I can speak on behalf of all five starting pitchers that regardless of the situation, you’re still going to have to probably pry the ball out of our cold dead hands to take us out of the game,” he said.
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