You don't expect to lose 23-5 in a game that Noah Syndergaard starts, but that's far from the worst news in a depressing, disastrous day for the New York Mets: Syndergaard left in the second inning after grimacing on back-to-back pitches to Bryce Harper, grabbing under his arm after the second pitch. The Mets called it a possible lat strain and announced that Syndergaard will have an MRI on Monday.
This comes after health issues had popped up with Syndergaard a few days ago. The Mets pushed back his scheduled start Thursday after he had been unable to lift his right arm above his shoulder just a couple of days before that. It was explained that Syndergaard had a sore biceps and tired arm. That led to Sunday's outing, with one headline before the game reading, "Mets face more injury drama as Noah Syndergaard refuses MRI, plans to start Sunday."
"It's a little thing right now, but we definitely don't want to turn it into a big thing," Syndergaard had said after missing his start Thursday. Syndergaard hit 100 mph in the first inning against the Nationals, certainly a sign he seemed OK, but he also gave up five runs in the inning. Maybe it was just bad luck as he gave up three ground ball singles (along with two line-drive hits) around a four-pitch walk to Harper. In the second inning, Syndergaard got Jayson Werth to line out, and then on a 1-1, 98 mph fastball to Harper he visibly grimaced in a pain after the follow-through on his delivery. His next pitch was a changeup, he grabbed under his arm and left the game after a visit from manager Terry Collins and trainer Ray Ramirez.
Pitchers always deal with sore arms and dead arms, but it does seem a little strange that a pitcher who couldn't lift his arm above his shoulder was allowed to pitch just a few days later, especially a pitcher as important to the Mets as Syndergaard. You also wonder why Collins or Ramirez didn't visit Syndergaard after the first pitch to Harper that left him grimacing. As for refusing the MRI a few days ago, maybe Yankees analyst David Cone said it best about Syndergaard on the YES Network: "He's not a very good doctor."
Look, until we get the full report from the Mets, we don't know what happened. It's possible that, if this injury is a lat strain, it had nothing to do with his sore biceps and tired arm and was just an oddly timed coincidence. There's no denying, however, that the Mets look bad here, a case where the inmates appear to be running the asylum.
After Thursday's communication breakdown in which Matt Harvey didn't know he was going to start until a couple of hours before the game, a day after he had lifted weights that he said left him tired during his game, Collins had seemed to indicate the team needed to preach caution with Syndergaard. "It's quite obvious we cannot take a chance on him," he told reporters, "hurting this guy, especially when you're talking about anything that runs into the shoulder to where he changes his delivery and other things happen."
Remember, this happened after Yoenis Cespedes injured his hamstring Thursday, landing him on the DL. Cespedes had just sat five days and missed three games because of a sore hamstring, played Wednesday and then injured himself again. Cespedes had passed all the tests the training staff administered, but Collins blew up after that game, saying, "You can write all you want [that] we should have put him on the DL. Well, we didn't. He didn't think it was necessary and thought he was going to able to play. Now he's going to be out for a while."
The key words there seem he didn't think it was necessary. Just like Syndergaard refused an MRI. Again, maybe it's just some really bad timing for the Mets, but this is why players need to be protected from themselves. Of course Cespedes wanted to play; the Mets were reeling and he knows what he means to the lineup. Of course Syndergaard wanted to pitch; he's young and untouchable and the Mets had a chance to sweep their biggest rival after entering the series having lost nine of 10. Young men full of testosterone want to drive fast; you have to tell them to slow down. The Mets didn't do that.
After Thursday, the Mets' season seemed to be reeling out of control. Then came those wins on Friday and Saturday over the Nationals, and things seemed less gloomy. Now we have to wait and see on Syndergaard's health and wait and see how Collins and the front office explain how they let this happen.