Terry Collins barked the words quickly and abruptly, forced to say something he didn’t want to say and that he didn’t wish was true.
“Noah Syndergaard is seeing the doctor,” he said on Wednesday, already rising from the platform where he holds his postgame news conferences. “His elbow flared up on him. That’s why I took him out of the game.”
And then Collins left the room, leaving a dozen unanswered questions — ones that the Mets hoped they’d never had to deal with. The foremost being: Is the pitcher they call Thor a mere mortal, after all?
It was supposed to be a good day for the Mets. Matt Reynolds, making his first professional start in leftfield, also hit his first major league homer in the sixth, the go-ahead shot in a 4-3 win over the Kansas City Royals. Though only a two-game series, it was their first-ever sweep of their World Series foes. Asdrubal Cabrera was brilliant, scoring on an acrobatic slide in the fourth, hitting a two-run home run in the fifth, and throwing in a nifty blind flip to Neil Walker in the eighth inning for a pivotal out. And Syndergaard (8-2), too, while not dominant, did not play like a man in pain.
He pitched six innings, allowing three earned runs and eight hits with four strikeouts. He got the win. But after the game, he was gone, already on the way to Dr. David Altchek at the Hospital for Special Surgery. The Mets said that Syndergaard would not travel with the team to Atlanta Wednesday, but would join them at a later date. They labeled the issue elbow discomfort.
Syndergaard is the only one of the Mets’ young starters to not have undergone Tommy John surgery. Additionally, the team had flip-flopped his start yesterday with Bartolo Colon’s on Tuesday, putting Syndergaard in line to start against the Nationals, which is now in question.
If there was any indication that something was off with Syndergaard, it was in his final inning, when his usually-mechanical control wavered, leading to two wild pitches and a run. Other than that, his velocity was on point. His fastball averaged 99.2, and he nearly hit 101 with his maximum velocity.
“He pitched great,” Rene Rivera said. “That’s why I didn’t know anything about it . . . I think the sinker was moving a lot and the wind was helping a lot. And his breaking ball was there.”
He wasn’t the only one who was surprised. “What happened to him?” said Cabrera, wearing the “Mount Rushmore” promotional T-shirt that pays homage to the Mets’ young arms. When told of Syndergaard, he responded, “Oh, that’s bad news for us.”
Walker, already showered and changed after the game, said he heard about it “five minutes ago.”
But somehow, as surprising as it was, it also seemed like old hat. After all, Syndergaard wasn’t even alone in his trip. Yoenis Cespedes, who left the game after the fifth inning with left wrist discomfort, also was headed to the Hospital for Special Surgery. Collins said he was concerned, but Cespedes told a Mets spokesperson that he wasn’t worried, though he wasn’t sure when he hurt it. If Zack Wheeler stuck around, the three of them could have had a meeting, because Wheeler was at the hospital earlier in the day concerning a possible setback in his Tommy John recovery.
Syndergaard is the only one of the Mets’ young pitchers to not have undergone Tommy John surgery. Additionally, the team had flip-flopped his start today with Bartolo Colon’s yesterday, putting Syndergaard in line to start against the Nationals, something that is now in question.
And the litany of the injured goes on. Here, have Walker list it for you: “This is no different than what we’ve been going through, with David [Wright] and [Lucas] Duda and [Juan] Lagares,” he said. “You just gotta keep pushing forward. No one is going to feel bad for you in this game. No one is going to keep it easy on you, whether it’s a team you’re supposed to beat or the best teams in the league.”
But it does wear on you. That much was apparent in Collins, unable to even enjoy a quality win like this one, one in which his bullpen performed admirably, a young player stepped up, and Jeurys Familia earned his franchise-tying 24th straight save.
“It’s not that much fun,” Collins said before he revealed what happened to Syndergaard. “I’d like to have a normal day once in a while.”
Not Wednesday, and if the news is bad on either Cespedes or Syndergaard, he won’t be having one any time soon.