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Syndergaard falters as Mets lose to Braves

The young ace had a rare bad outing.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at New York Mets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe the Mets just wanted to remind everyone that they don’t quite have a Wild Card spot locked up just yet. In their series opener against the Braves, Noah Syndergaard struggled, the bullpen wasn’t quite perfect, and the offense wasn’t able to come back.

You wouldn’t have known that Syndergaard was going to have a bad night by watching him pitch in the top of the first inning. His stuff looked as nasty as ever, as his slider his 95 miles per hour, and he struck out two batters and needed only ten pitches to retire the Braves in order. But everything changed in the second inning, during which he lost the strike zone, issued two walks, and gave up three singles and two runs. All things considered, the inning could have gone far worse.

Freddie Freeman opened the third with an opposite-field home run, which wasn’t particularly concerning since that’s the sort of thing Freeman—who’s in the midst of a career year—is capable of doing. In the fourth inning, though, Syndergaard had allowed a single and issued a walk before Freeman came up with two outs and doubled to plate the Braves’ fourth and fifth runs of the night.

In total, Syndergaard lasted just three-and-two-thirds innings, struck out five, walked three, and gave up five runs on eight hits. Considering how great he has been this season and how dominant he was in his previous outing, it was a pretty surprising outcome, and it’d be quite a bit more surprising if he didn’t bounce back from the start when he makes his next one.

As for the Mets’ offense, it hadn’t done anything against Braves starter Aaron Blair while Syndergaard was struggling, but T.J. Rivera continued his ridiculously hot stretch with a two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth to put the Mets on the board. Unfortunately, while the combination of Sean Gilmartin and Josh Edgin kept the Braves from tacking on runs into the seventh inning, Edgin was lifted with the bases loaded in that inning for Hansel Robles, who gave up the softest of bloop singles into the Bermuda triangle behind the left side of the infield and in front of left field. That gave the Braves a 7-2 lead.

The Mets didn’t lack for opportunities to close that gap late in the game, but they only scored once more. Jose Reyes walked to begin the eighth inning, and both Asdrubal Cabrera and Yoenis Cespedes his fly balls to the warning track, with Cabrera’s coming particularly close to being a home run. That third and final run scored in the ninth, as Michael Conforto opened the inning with a single and James Loney doubled—thanks in large part to a misplay by Ender Inciarte on what should have been a single—to bring Conforto all the way around from first.

Despite that favorable scenario, though, the Mets did not score again. The loss cost them a game in the standings to the victorious Cardinals, but the Giants lost, too, which leaves the Mets in sole possession of the first Wild Card spot in the National League this morning.

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What’s WPA?

Big winners: none
Big losers: Noah Syndergaard, -30.7% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: T.J. Rivera hits a two-run home run in the fifth, +8.8% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Dansby Swanson singles to score the Braves’ first run in the second, -10.1% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -31.4% WPA
Total batter WPA: -18.7% WPA
GWRBI!: Freddie Freeman