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A Norse Is a Horse Of Course

Honestly, even without considering the lateness of the hour, a big picture of Noah Syndergaard [1] would be more eloquent than whatever I’ll be able to come up with.

Because sometimes Syndergaard defies description.

Wednesday night’s pitching line might not look like ace-level Syndergaard — the swing-and-a-miss stuff wasn’t quite there — but that’s deceptive. Syndergaard was hitting 100 MPH in the eighth, leaned on that killer slider for some key outs in the middle innings, and showed the curveball just to make things even more unfair. Results-wise, he was dented on two bad pitches — one a slider that arrived more than it slid (it happens, even to him), and one on a too predictable first-pitch fastball down the middle to a fastball hitter. That was it.

But — as you probably know by now — that was only half of the latest Norse saga. In the third, Syndergaard hammered a Kenta Maeda [2] offspeed pitch over the fence in right center — a pitch intended for the outside corner that drifted back and begged to be spanked. Impressive, but greater things were in the offing.

In the fifth, Syndergaard came to the plate with nobody out and runners on first and second. Terry Collins [3], predictably, had him bunt. Now, first and second with nobody out is the one situation where a bunt is defensible mathematically, but c’mon. Syndergaard has always shown an ability to hit and had just crashed one 407 feet. Noah didn’t get the bunt down, was allowed to swing away on 2-2, and hammered the ball over the fence in left-center, with Joc Pederson [4] failing to get a glove on the ball and losing his cap over the fence. That blast was even more impressive than the third-inning shot — Maeda’s first pitch was a mistake, but the second was an off-speed pitch on the back corner of the plate. As Syndergaard trotted around the bases, Maeda gritted his teeth on the mound, no doubt thinking that things like this don’t happen in Japan. If it’s any comfort to him, they don’t really happen here either, much as the last week might make us dream otherwise.

Syndergaard got two more at-bats. In the sixth, with the bases loaded and one out, he practically came out of his shoes trying to take Chris Hatcher Maeda deep for a third homer, hooking two pitches hard down the right-field line and sending another one straight back before fanning. In the eighth, Joe Blanton [5] threw him nothing but sliders, which was disappointing but wise.

If there was an unamusing part of the night, it was the Mets’ continuing futility with runners on third and less than two out. This will take a while: Yoenis Cespedes [6] got thrown out at home on a bad gamble with one out in the second, Eric Campbell [7] fouled out with nobody out in the sixth, Syndergaard struck out with one out and the bases loaded in the same frame, and Lucas Duda [8] flied to short left in the seventh with runners on second and third and one out. That’s four gimme runs not converted, which forced Jeurys Familia [9] into a dicey situation that became dicier, with the Mets needing remarkable plays from newcomers Neil Walker [10] and Asdrubal Cabrera [11] to stave off disaster [12]. Such situational failings are usually baseball randomness that disappears over time; it would be just fine with me if the vanishing would begin soonest.

Anyway, the Mets kept rolling — on the same night Max Scherzer [13] struck out 20 in leading the second-place Nats to victory. To get woofy for a moment, fanning 20 is something Syndergaard can do, but can Scherzer go deep twice?

More seriously, it’s been fun monitoring the Nats in the early going. They’re a team with so many interesting storylines: Dusty Baker [14]‘s supervision of a clubhouse that needed healing, old friend Daniel Murphy [15]‘s new blazing hot streak, Jonathan Papelbon [16]‘s explosive failures, and Bryce Harper [17] being Bryce Harper. And I’m sure knowledgable Nats fans (yes, there really are a few) have kept the same watch on Metsian doings, marveling at Syndergaard and wondering where Walker came from and sighing about years of facing Michael Conforto [18].

All this has necessarily happened at a remove. But that will change next week, with six Mets-Nats tilts over nine days. We’ve got work to do before then — starting with none other than Clayton Kershaw [19] on Thursday — but isn’t that going to be fun?