By Scott Mandel
This was going to be the beginning of the Mets’ stretch run towards the National League playoffs. They were two games out of the second wild card slot and facing off against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the best team in the league, and its ace, Clayton Kershaw, who has a standing invitation to enter the Hall of Fame five years after he retires. This was the moment to prove they are an elite team.
This morning, the Mets are now three games behind instead of two. It didn’t go exactly as planned.
Kershaw worked his magic against a Mets lineup that has been producing runs at a consistently high rate since the All-Star break in July. But, all night, the Mets were flailing at Kershaw’s serves of fastballs, curves, and sliders with pinpoint control. When it was over, the Mets had lost convincingly, 9-2, with Noah Syndergaard throwing to Wilson Ramos
Before the game, Mets manager, Mickey Callaway had nearly waxed poetic in his praise of Syndergaard, making one wonder if the controversy of the past few days, in which Syndergaard was reported to have complained to management about his preference not to work with Ramos behind the plate, was much worse than initially thought.
Callaway’s agenda, as peacemaker between Syndergaard and Wilson Ramos, seemed clear.
“I think that Noah is going to go compete no matter who’s catching him,” Callaway said. “If we can get the [pitch] distribution where we want it, get the pitches where we want it, it doesn’t matter who catches him. And we’ve seen that.”
Whether the four runs Syndergaard allowed in the 9-2 loss to the Dodgers were more on him, or on Ramos, is a matter of debate. It was Ramos who called for a full-count curveball to Gavin Lux with two men on base in the fourth inning. It was Syndergaard who hung it, chest-high, in a perfect spot for Lux to crush it off Citi Field’s center-field fence. The ball cleared the orange home run line for a go-ahead, three-run shot, and the Dodgers never trailed again in a game that dropped the Mets three games behind the Cubs in the National League Wild Card race.
The pairing of Syndergaard and Ramos became notable last weekend, when Syndergaard approached Callaway and Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen to request an assignment throwing to anyone else. In those meetings, Syndergaard cited the fact that he owned a 2.22 ERA pitching to backups Tomas Nido and Rene Rivera, but a 5.09 mark working with Ramos. The Mets countered with the fact that Ramos was the National League’s leading hitter since Aug. 1.
Kershaw allowed a home run to J.D. Davis and surrendered a walk in the first inning but got stingy after that. Over the next five innings, the Mets managed two hits — consecutive singles in the fourth inning. The Mets went two for 17 during the span.
The Mets then loaded the bases and chased Kershaw with one out in the seventh inning. Joe Kelly was summoned to extinguish the situation. The right-hander got Brandon Nimmo to hit a chopper to his left. Kelly corralled it and spun for an athletic throw home for the forceout. Amed Rosario lined a run-scoring single before Davis grounded out to limit the damage. Kershaw (14-5), coming off a four-inning start, was ultimately charged with two runs on four hits as he improved to 10-0 in his career against the Mets during the regular season.
The Dodgers tallied four runs in the fourth inning to snatch the lead, capped off by Gavin Lux’s tie-breaking, three-run home run. The homer, the second of Lux’s short career, came on a hanging curveball from Noah Syndergaard (10-8), who allowed four runs in five innings. It traveled 419 feet to straightaway center field. Edwin Rios, another rookie, lofted a pinch-hit, two-home run over the wall in left field in the eighth.