Everyone once in a while you wake up and look at the baseball box scores from the day before and see something you believe you’ve never seen before, something so extraordinary it makes you shake your head in admiration.
Noah Syndergaard provided that on Wednesday with one of the most rare performances of any pitcher in Major League history.
The New York Mets righthander, nicknamed Thor because of his granite build and flowing blond locks, came into his noontime start against the Cincinnati Reds with a 1-3 record and 6.35 ERA. He admitted he’d lost faith in his breaking ball, comparing holding it to griping an ice cube. He was not in a good state of mind.
But there was something quite different about him this time out. Syndergaard struck out 10 and allowed only four hits in pitching a complete-game shutout. That’s not all. He also smacked a 407-foot home run to leftfield to account for the only run in New York’s 1-0 win at Citi Field.
How rare was this? It was only the seventh time in MLB history that a pitcher homered and threw a 1-0 shutout. The last pitcher to do it was Bob Welch of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1983.
“One of the rarest things in baseball,” Mets Manager Mickey Callaway said after the game. “It’s probably rarer than a perfect game.”
The Mets manager is correct. There have been 23 perfect games in MLB history.
The do-it-yourself win was also a first in Mets history, which dates to 1962. During their 1969 World Championship season, they won a doubleheader in Pittsburgh by identical 1-0 scores and the run in each game was knocked home by their starting pitcher, Don Cardwell and Jerry Koosman. But they never won one like this.
And to cap the day off, Syndergaard got Yasiel Puig looking at strike three on a 99.5 mph fastball that carved the outside corner of the plate.
“He was a one-man wrecking crew,” said Mets rookie first baseman Pete Alonso.
Syndergaard mixed things up before the game. He wore his hair down, instead of the ponytail he’s been sporting all season. And he shaved the scraggily beard he’s has since the season started.
“It was a beautiful day,” he said.
Syndergaard is one of the best hitting pitchers in baseball. He had a two-homer game at Dodgers Stadium and he’d already clubbed his fifth career homer earlier in the season. On Wednesday, he led off the bottom of the third inning against Reds starter Tyler Mahle by redirecting a 92 mph fastball to the opposite field to give the Mets the only run they needed.
Only Dwight Gooden has more homeruns (seven) in franchise history. And Syndergaard is just one of three Mets starters who can rake. Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler have always homered this season. In fact, the four homers are the most by Mets starters in one season in team history and there are still 131 games to play.
“He said enough is enough,” Callaway said of Syndergaard. “He knows that he had to be better than what he was.”
The Mets really needed a complete game from Syndergaard. Their bullpen has been taking a beating. Ace closer Edwin Diaz gave up two homers in the four-game set against the Reds and set-up man Jeurys Familia was placed on the Injured List on Thursday with a sore shoulder after giving up a two-run lead in the ninth inning the night before.
“He’s got his swag back,” Mets third baseman Todd Frazier said of Syndergaard.
Syndergaard didn’t throw his 100th pitch until the ninth inning. He ended with 104, 74 of which were strikes.
“It feels like a huge weight has been taken off my shoulder,” Syndergaard said.