KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Noah Syndergaard expected the boos he received when he took the mound. He actually found them mildly amusing. As for the song choice at Kauffman Stadium during his first-inning warm-up pitches, even Syndergaard admitted it was clever.
“I thought it was kind of funny how they played ‘American Woman’ when I was warming up for the first inning," Syndergaard said. "They got me on that one. Normally I don’t hear it. I took notice to that.”
In a game that was hyped considering what transpired during the World Series, Syndergaard proceeded to toss six scoreless innings against the notoriously pesky Kansas City Royals as the New York Mets won, 2-0, on Tuesday. Armed with a wicked slider that team officials told him touched 95 mph, Syndergaard struck out nine batters in a 92-pitch effort. That included three straight Ks in the first inning after Alcides Escobar opened the frame with a triple. It also included a strikeout on three straight sliders to Kendrys Morales with the bases loaded in the sixth to complete his outing.
“He had electric stuff,” captain David Wright said. “I looked up on the scoreboard and see 94, 95. I go ask [catcher] Travis [d’Arnaud] what those pitches were, and he’s talking about sliders. That’s unheard of. That’s about as good as I’ve seen. Stuff-wise, composure-wise, for a young guy to come into this environment and keep his composure and throw that type of game, he’s got the ability to be a special one.
"A lot of guys throw hard now. But his command, under these circumstances, with the crowd getting on him -- deservedly so -- to come through like that and especially make some big pitches in some big spots, he can light up the radar gun and he can pitch in and out, and I can't say enough good things about him. I think he's got some of the best stuff in the league. The way he handled him today, I think he's well on his way to elite status."
Syndergaard had irked the Royals during the World Series when he whizzed a fastball past Escobar and to the backstop to open Game 3. After that game, he noted he was waiting on the mound in case any Kansas City batters had a problem with him.
In total, six of Syndergaard’s strikeouts Tuesday came on a slider. He had 11 all of last season on that pitch.
“I realized in beginning of the game I had a pretty good feel for it,” Syndergaard said. “I feel like I really took it to the next level, because I’ve never thrown a 95 mph slider before. ... I kind of shocked myself today with how good my slider was. It felt good in spring training, but I amped it up to another level today.”
After the game, manager Terry Collins recalled a conversation with Carlos Beltran a few years ago regarding Matt Harvey. Beltran told Collins that Harvey is unhittable because his low-90s slider complements an upper-90s fastball.
“He said you’ve got to look for both, and it’s impossible,” Collins recalled. “And then to locate it like Noah did today, that’s a tough task.”