|Noah Syndergaard heard the applause all night Thursday. Photo by Jason Schott.|
The Mets, behind another superb outing from starter Noah Syndergaard, completed their sweep of the Cleveland Indians with a 2-0 rain-shortened win at Citi Field Thursday night.
Winners of five straight overall and 27-10 since the All-Star Break, the Mets are now 67-60, a season-high seven games over .500. They are just 1 1/2 games behind St. Louis (68-58) for the second Wild Card spot, and three behind Washington (70-57) for the top seed in the one-game W.C. playoff.
Mets Manager Callaway said of what the sweep tells him about his team, "I think it's a great indication that we're playing very good baseball. We're continuing to stress the right things, we're playing the game the right way, and everybody's performing. Great team across the field over there, and we came in and did a good job against them in this series."
Syndergaard has been a machine since the All-Star Break, as he has thrown seven straight quality starts in a row, for the first time in his career, entering his start on Thursday against Cleveland.
Mets Manager Mickey Callaway was asked before the game about Syndergaard's strong second half, "I think that you can try to pinpoint one thing or the other for any starter - obviously, his slider has been better, he's using it more, that's a weapon that he's always had that has allowed him to succeed at this level, but he has very, very above-average weapons across the board.
"When he executes pitches, keeps the ball down, is throwing the ball over the plate, getting ahead, he's going to have success, even if his slider's not there that day. It's really just, he's getting on a roll and he's pitching deep into games with fairly low pitch counts. You know, he's rarely getting above 100 and still going seven, and I think it's more confidence knowing his slider's back, executing pitches and attacking the zone."
Heading into Thursday night, Syndergaard threw 97 pitches or fewer in each of his prior four starts, throwing at least six innings and allowing no more than two runs in each outing. Only one other pitcher in Mets history can match that streak: Tom Glavine from April 6-21, 20004.
Callaway added on Syndergaard's improved mechanics, "He's quickened up a little bit with runners on base, which has really helped his mechanics. When you're a big guy like that, and you have all those big body parts moving around, it's always better to keep it simple. I really feel that that tad bit quicker time to home to help control the running game has really helped his delivery, especially with men on, and that's when you want to make your best pitches, and that's how you keep runs off the board, is being very effective out of the stretch and he's done a great job of that."
Syndergaard retired the first 16 hitters he faced before Tyler Naquin dunked a single into center field with one out in the sixth inning.
Francisco Lindor then got a two-out hit before Greg Allen hit one to Pete Alonso, who made a great play on the one-hopper before Syndergaard beat him to the bag.
Cleveland starter Aaron Civale was making his fifth Major League start and second in six days in New York as he pitched against the Yankees last Friday night, in which he went six innings, allowing two runs on eight hits and two walks, with four strikeouts. He lasted six innings in all four of his starts entering Thursday.
The 24-year-old right-hander matched Syndergaard until the fourth when Joe Panik got the first hit of the game, a single to lead off that inning.
That started a Mets rally that saw Michael Conforto get a one-out double into the left field corner (partly because Naquin held up), followed by a double for Wilson Ramos to the opposite field into the the right field corner.
Ramos' double scored Panik and Conforto to give the Mets a 2-0 lead.
Rain started coming down in the top of the sixth and really intensified in the bottom half of the inning when Michael Conforto singled with two outs. The tarp then came out for what would be a lengthy rain delay.
Civale threw six innings apiece in each of his first four Major League starts, and Conforto's single wound up limiting him to 5 2/3 innings in this one. He allowed two runs on four hits and no walks, with three strikeouts.
The rain delay lasted two hours and 28 minutes, and when the game resumed at 11:12, Tyler Clippard came on for Cleveland and got Wilson Ramos to fly out to left field to end the sixth.
Syndergaard did not come back after the delay, and his final line read: 6 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 5 strikeouts, 73 pitches/50 strikes.
Callaway said of Syndergaard's performance, "You see him good a lot, but tonight was really good. He had a really good changeup, he was really good in the bullpen, he leaned on it a lot with all those switch-hitters that are hitting left-handed against him, and he put up zeroes."
On when he started to think that Thor could throw a perfect game in this one, Callaway said, "You think about that, you know - you don't say it, but you're definitely thinking about, you know, where the pitch count was and how he was going, and the fact that his changeup was so good and it's such an effective weapon against their lineup, it crept in, but there's still a lot of game left. He threw a heck of a game."
Jeurys Familia came on for the Mets in the seventh and he pitched a scoreless frame.
Clippard stayed on for Cleveland for the bottom of the seventh, and he got J.D. Davis to ground to shortstop before getting Todd Frazier to hit a dribbler along the first base line.
It took a while for Clippard to get over, so Frazier was ahead of him getting to first, and he threw it over his head into foul territory.
Frazier reached second base by the time Yasiel Puig got to the ball, and he threw it away at third base, allowing Frazier to get over there as a result of two errors.
Juan Lagares was up next, and he flew out to left, Frazier tagged up, and Naquin threw a bullet to the plate to throw him out and end the inning.
Paul Sewald came on to pitch a perfect eighth inning, which included strikeouts of Naquin and pinch-hitter Mike Freeman.
In the bottom of the eighth, with Hunter Wood on for Cleveland, Luis Guillorme drew a walk and Amed Rosario singled before the rains once again halted play at 11:47 p.m.
After a wait of about 40 minutes, the Mets were declared winners, 2-0.
Callaway said of what these wins against playoff contenders (6-3 against Washington, Atlanta, and Cleveland since Aug. 9) show about his team, "I think that we have a very, very good team, and when we play baseball the way we're capable of, we can compete with anybody, and we've been doing that lately.
"It's fun, the fans are showing up. It gets real fun when you have a rain delay, and then there's just a few of the die-hards out there, they say some pretty funny stuff, that's always fun. We've been playing great and the fans' energy has been fantastic."
The Mets have now won 13 of their last 15 at Citi Field (dating back to July 23) and their home record is a superb 37-21.