CHICAGO — If Tuesday marked the swan song of Noah Syndergaard’s New York Mets career, he made the most of his final outing. Not that he thinks it was.
The big right-hander they call “Thor” went 7⅓ strong innings, holding the Chicago White Sox to an unearned run and leaving with the Mets holding a 2-1 lead one day before baseball’s annual trade deadline. Syndergaard held Chicago to five hits and struck out 11.
Afterward, Syndergaard was asked whether he was confident that he’d be back at Guaranteed Rate Field on Wednesday.
“I am,” Syndergaard said. He added that he’d talked to the Mets’ front office “a little bit here and there, but I don’t think anything is going to happen.”
Syndergaard was left with a no-decision after the White Sox tied the game in the ninth against another Mets trade candidate, closer Edwin Diaz. New York went on to win 5-2 on back-to-back homers in the 11th by Jeff McNeil — a two-run shot that just snuck over the wall — and Michael Conforto, who blasted one onto the concourse behind the right-field stands.
It was a season-high fifth straight win for New York, which stands just five games back of a wild-card slot in the National League, a fact that has been obscured in the whirlwind of trade rumors in recent weeks.
“It’s getting kind of old, a little bit,” Syndergaard said of his own role in the rumor mill. “I guess it’s kind of encouraging at the same time.”
After leaving, Syndergaard watched from the dugout as reliever Seth Lugo got Chicago’s Jose Abreu to roll into an inning-ending double play, preserving Syndergaard’s chance to pick up a win. He pumped his fist in celebration.
“I thought he was electric,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “Had all his pitches working, pitched that deep in the game. He did a tremendous job. That was probably the best I’ve seen him.”
It was Syndergaard’s fourth straight outing in which he has gone at least seven innings, the type of workload any suitor would love a midseason acquisition to carry. With his 16th career double-digit strikeout performance, Syndergaard has a 3.20 ERA while averaging 6.4 innings per outing over his past 10 starts.
Syndergaard’s name has been a popular one on the rumor mill since spring training. One of baseball’s hardest-throwing starters, the 6-foot-6 Syndergaard routinely touches triple digits with his fastball, a trait that earned him his mythological nickname.
Yet, as first-year New York general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has slowly reshaped the Mets’ roster, Syndergaard has been touted as a trade asset. At 26, he retains two more team-controlled seasons after this one as an arbitration-eligible player. Van Wagenen has been one of baseball’s busier executives this week already, acquiring righty starter Marcus Stroman from Toronto and dealing lefty starter Jason Vargas to NL East rival Philadelphia.
Amid the flurry of phone calls and text messages, Van Wagenen perhaps noticed that his club has suddenly started playing up to preseason expectations.
“They know we’re playing good baseball,” Callaway said. “We’re not trying to send messages to anybody. We’re just trying to win as many games as we possibly can. That’s been our goal [since] the beginning of the season.”
All the trades and rumored activity made Syndergaard something of a curiosity before Tuesday’s game. Would he be scratched? Would he even show up to Guaranteed Rate Field? As it turned out, Syndergaard simply dressed and underwent his normal game-day routine before making his strong start.
“It’s always in the back of my mind,” Syndergaard said. “I try not harp on things that are outside of my control.”
Stirring the pot was news that veteran starter Ervin Santana had been scratched from a scheduled outing for the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate. Before facing the White Sox, Callaway said the club was simply “covering all of our bases” in the event a pitcher was moved. In addition to Syndergaard, free-agent-to-be Zack Wheeler has been frequently mentioned as a trade candidate. Wheeler is scheduled to start in Chicago on Thursday.
Was Tuesday’s gem it for Syndergaard as a Met? Come Wednesday, we will find out. The final bell on the trade deadline sounds at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday. If it does turn out that Thor must find a new place to hang his hammer, he’s not sure exactly how he’ll feel about it, especially with the vibrations in the New York clubhouse suddenly sounding so good.
“If that were to happen, it would really be a bittersweet moment,” Syndergaard said. “Just because of the fan base, the guys in this clubhouse. I still hope everyone is in this clubhouse tomorrow, past July .”