Noah Syndergaard seldom looks uncomfortable on the field. He is a 6-foot-6, stone-faced intimidator who used his first pitch in the World Series to throw toward an opponent’s head.
But even the most tyrannical of pitchers have weaknesses. Last Monday, the Cincinnati Reds observed Syndergaard’s dawdling delivery with runners on base and stole five bases, uncovering a soft spot in his previously perceived ironclad makeup.
On Sunday, the San Francisco Giants took the few opportunities afforded them to similarly exploit the same deficiency, snapping the Mets eight-game winning streak with a 6-1 victory in a cold, windy and wet affair at Citi Field.
In the fourth inning, Matt Duffy hit a one-out single. With Buster Posey at bat, Duffy attempted his first stolen base of the year, successfully swiping second. A Posey single moved Duffy to third.
With runners on the corners, the Giants continued to toy with Syndergaard’s composure. Posey and Duffy got advantageous jumps on a ground ball hit to second base by Brandon Belt. Instead of a potential inning-ending double play, Neil Walker’s only feasible throw was to get Belt out at first, and Duffy scored the first run of the game.
Hunter Pence followed with a two-run home run.
Syndergaard was tagged with his first loss of the season, outdueled by Madison Bumgarner, who pitched six scoreless innings, striking out seven. Bumgarner is 4-0 in four career starts at Citi Field, allowing two earned runs in 29 innings.
The matchup between the two starters was highly anticipated.
Strategically, Mets Manager Terry Collins scheduled David Wright’s day off for Saturday, to make sure he could face Bumgarner. Walker described the two pitchers with a variety of compliments, calling them “aces,” “horses” and “studs.”
For all of Syndergaard’s talent and his emergence as one of the top pitchers in April, Bumgarner’s résumé is currently incomparable, particularly in the postseason — he was the most valuable player of the 2014 World Series and owns a 4-0 record with a 0.25 earned run average during three World Series championship runs with the Giants.
Bumgarner was also vastly more successful keeping runners stranded on Sunday. The Mets left nine on base against him. Their best scoring opportunity came in the sixth, when they loaded the bases with two outs. But Asdrubal Cabrera, pinch-hitting for Hansel Robles, who had replaced Syndergaard, struck out looking on a fastball pristinely placed on the inside corner.
The Giants were 3 for 3 on stolen-base attempts against Syndergaard. Brandon Crawford also successfully had his first stolen base of the season in the third inning.
Twelve of 13 base runners have been successful stealing against Syndergaard this season, including all nine to second base. In the sixth, Duffy again picked up a one-out single, stole second and scored on Pence’s third R.B.I., a single to right field.
Syndergaard allowed four runs in five and two-third innings. He struck out six, breaking a streak of eight consecutive games with eight or more strikeouts.