On a day when the Mets were shorthanded in terms of available bullpen arms, manager Terry Collins made it clear beforehand that he needed budding ace Noah Syndergaard to go deep against the Brewers.
That became problematic when an error by third baseman David Wright led to an unearned run for Milwaukee and a 20-pitch first inning for Syndergaard. But the pitcher known as “Thor” found command of his pitches as he went along and summoned the customary thunder and lightning that kept popping the glove of catcher Rene Rivera.
Syndergaard went seven innings, allowing six hits, walking none and striking out 11, in a 3-1 victory that gave the Mets a series sweep over the Brewers on Sunday at Citi Field.
It was the second consecutive game with double-digit strikeouts and no walks for Syndergaard (5-2, 1.94 ERA), who did the same in a win over Washington on Tuesday. He became only the second Met to accomplish that back-to-back feat since Dwight Gooden in 1984, and he is only the fourth MLB pitcher since 1913 to have consecutive games with double-digit strikeouts, no walks and no earned runs.
“I had a mishap in the first inning and it cost us a run, but he bears down,” Wright said. “He threw 20 pitches in the first, and to make it through seven innings after that start shows you why he’s one of the best in the game right now.”
Syndergaard threw 96 pitches through the first six innings, but Collins sent him out for the seventh because just four relievers were available. Syndergaard allowed leadoff singles by Hernan Perez and Alex Presley, but Rivera threw out Presley trying to advance on a pitch he dropped. Perez was stranded at third when Syndergaard record ed his 11th strikeout and got a groundout on his 109th pitch.
“He was going to go over 115 [pitches] if we had to because we had to get deep in the game,” Collins said. “You could tell in the last inning, the velocity was good but the late life wasn’t there. But he made pitches when he had to.”
Jim Henderson pitched a scoreless eighth and Jeurys Familia got his 15th save in as many chances.
In the opening frame, Scooter Gennett reached base on Wright’s one-out error, moved to second on a groundout and scored on Jonathan Lucroy’s single. That was it for the Brewers.
Michael Conforto tied it with a home run in the bottom of the first off Chase Anderson (2-6). Conforto walked to begin the fourth and moved to third on a bloop double by Yoenis Cespedes. Both scored on a one-out single by Asdrubal Cabrera for a 3-1 lead.
Collins said the game changed when Syndergaard began to locate his slider, but the righthander disagreed.
“I really didn’t have tremendous feel with my slider,” he said. “It was more my curveball, throwing it in there and working on it inside. I feel I can throw any pitch at any given time and get the result that I want.”
As Syndergaard’s strikeouts mounted, the Brewers’ frustration became evident.
“They’re not having fun hitting, I tell you that,” Rivera said. “One at-bat, I went up to hit and [Brewers catcher] Lucroy said, ‘You got lucky. You’re catching him. He’s not easy to hit.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I know.’
“When you’ve got a hard thrower, as a hitter, you think fastballs. With Noah, you see the curveball out of his hand breaking down and you’re kind of like frozen. And he throws the slider 92. It’s not easy. It’s unreal.”