Despite being outhit twelve to two, the Mets tied the Astros with three runs apiece this afternoon in West Palm Beach. It was a marquee pitching matchup, with Noah Syndergaard taking on Justin Verlander and both pitchers appeared to be close to midseason form already. Jeff McNeil made Verlander work in the very first at-bat of the game, but ultimately flew out to center on a 3-2 pitch and Verlander cruised from there, not allowing a hit in his two innings of work and throwing 20 of his 25 pitches for strikes.
Syndergaard worked out of some trouble in the first, when George Springer led off the inning with a single. Jeff McNeil showed off some range at his new position in left field to make a running grab on a fly ball in the gap off the bat of Jose Altuve. Springer stole second and Josh Reddick knocked a single up the middle to put runners at the corners. Reddick attempted to follow suit, but was caught stealing, with Dilson Herrera making a nice tag, bringing the ball back across his body from the third base side. Syndergaard then induced a pop-up from Yuli Gurriel that was handled by Pete Alonso to end the inning.
Things went much more smoothly for Syndergaard in the second, in which he tossed a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts. He was sitting at 98 mph on the radar gun and touched 99 mph a couple of times in the outing. Syndergaard said he was working on establishing himself with his four-seamer and not allowing himself to fall too much in love with his two-seamer. His secondaries looked quite nice as well, as he mixed in a filthy changeup or two.
Things did not get easier for the Mets bats after Verlander exited the game, as they then had to face Astros top prospect Forrest Whitley, who was quite impressive in his two innings of work. He did not allow a hit and struck out three, making a few of the Mets’ hitters look obviously overmatched.
After Syndergaard’s second inning, the Astros had traffic on the bases in nearly every inning, but the Mets pitchers worked themselves in and out of jams throughout the day. Jacob Rhame was the only reliever to surrender any runs, allowing a bases clearing triple to Nick Tanielu that narrowly avoided the glove of a diving Jeff McNeil to put the Astros in front 3-0 in the bottom of the fourth.
But the Mets struck back in the top of the next frame. Pete Alonso walked to lead off the inning, the Mets’ first baserunner of the day. Keon Broxton followed with the Mets’ first base hit. With one out, David Thompson blasted a hanging changeup from Kent Emanuel over the left field wall to tie the game at 3, where the score remained for duration of the game.
Some other highlights from today’s action:
- In addition to handling two pop-ups with ease, Pete Alonso made a sparkling play at first base this afternoon. With the bases loaded and nobody out in the fourth, Ronnie Dawson hit a laser to the first base side, on which Alonso made a nice pick and quickly tossed the ball home for the force out.
- Drew Smith, Luis Avilan, Tyler Bashlor, and Daniel Zamora all logged scoreless innings for the Mets, but none were without difficulty, as the Astros had at least one baserunner in all of those innings, but failed to score. The only reliever to log a 1-2-3 inning was P.J. Conlon, who induced three quick fly balls in the eighth.
- Sam Haggerty committed a throwing error playing third base to prolong the sixth inning. But Tyler Bashlor was able to get Aledmys Diaz to fly out with the bases loaded to end the inning and avoid any damage.
- Corey Taylor showed off a nifty pickoff move in the ninth, picking Stephen Wrenn off first base after Wrenn walked to lead off the inning.
Full box score: MLB.com
The Mets play two split-squad contests tomorrow afternoon, with part of the team traveling to Champion Stadium play the Braves and the remaining Mets going home to Port St. Lucie to play the Tigers. Brandon Nimmo will make his spring debut in the home contest, which will be televised on SNY. Todd Frazier will start Grapefruit League action on Wednesday against the Marlins.