New York Mets ace Noah Syndergaard helped commence the 2018 season on a positive note. Can his success revive an ultra-talented yet underachieving starting staff?
Syndergaard joined Pedro Martinez as the only Mets starters to reach double-digit strikeouts on Opening Day as he struck out 10 St. Louis Cardinals over six dominant innings.
— New York Mets (@Mets) March 29, 2018
Aided by a five-run fifth inning that broke a 3-3 tie, the Mets won for the 37th time in their last 49 Opening Day games, defeating the Cardinals 9-4. All of the Mets regulars— except for Asdrubal Cabrera—collected at least one hit, as the Mets pounded out 12 hits on the day.
Syndergaard used an assortment of pitches to keep the Cardinals off-balance all day. His dominant fastball reached as high as 99.4 MPH, while he also mixed in a changeup, slider and curveball, which dropped as low as 81.8 MPH.
A pair of vicious 92mph and 93mph sliders from Noah Syndergaard. Filllllthy. pic.twitter.com/IaxjhDEL99
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) March 29, 2018
Thor scattered four runs and six hits over six innings while walking none. He became just the 10th pitcher in MLB history to strikeout double-digit batters while also not allowing a walk on Opening Day.
The Mets’ revamped bullpen took control the rest of the way over the final three innings, and the team’s pitching staff finished with an impressive 15 strikeouts on the day.
Last season Syndergaard was limited to just seven starts, going 1-2 with a 2.97 ERA. He already equaled his season-high of last season with his 10 strikeouts in the Mets opener on Thursday.
By providing the Mets with stability at the front of their rotation, Syndergaard hopes to inspire the rest of the Mets starters by leading by example. Jacob deGrom is next up on Saturday.
Last season the Mets finished with the worst ERA in the National League and second worst in MLB with a 5.01 team ERA. Having a healthy Syndergaard lead a rotation that figured to be one of the best in the league last season before injuries sidelined everyone but deGrom, will go a long way to helping the Mets regain the form that saw them make consecutive postseason appearances in 2015 and 2016.
The Mets biggest question marks this season are their third and fourth starters, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz. Both pitchers have dealt with major injuries over the last two seasons that have limited their potential and stunted their growth.
Matz gets the ball on Sunday against the Cardinals. Matz made just 13 starts last season due to a myriad of arm problems that saw his ERA balloon to 6.08. The Mets need to see the same pitcher that showed the rest of the National League what he could do when he posted a 13-8 record with a 3.16 ERA over 28 starts in 2015-16.
Harvey makes his first start of the season on Monday against the Phillies. From 2012-15, in 65 starts Harvey went 25-18 with a 2.65 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and averaged 9.5 K per 9 innings. However, despite is successful 2015 season coming off Tommy John surgery, Harvey has dealt with multiple injuries in the last two seasons that have derailed his career. In 36 games (35 starts) since 2016, Harvey has gone 9-17 with a 5.78 ERA and 1.58 WHIP.
With his start on Thursday, Syndergaard helped set the tone for the 2018 season. The rest of the starters now have to match the success of what he accomplished on Opening Day. Such success breeds competition of the rest of the starters to equal his accomplishments. That success can help the Mets and their fans dream big in 2018.