2022 World Series: Noah Syndergaard starts Game 3 for the Phillies in the pinch spot

2022 World Series: Noah Syndergaard starts Game 3 for the Phillies in the pinch spot

When Noah Syndergaard takes the mound for the Phillies in Game 3 of the World Series on Monday night, he won’t be in foreign territory.

Syndergaard started Game 3 of the 2015 World Series for the New York Mets.

Things were different then, but in a way they were the same.

In 2015, Syndergaard was a hard-nosed 23-year-old with a right-hander who could fire the baseball at 100 mph.

Now, he’s a more alert 30-year-old with a surgically repaired right hand that no longer fires radar guns.

The stakes were high in 2015 and will be high again on Monday night. Syndergaard hit Game 3 of the 2015 World Series to keep the Kansas City Royals from going three games to none on the Mets. The Royals ended up winning the series in five games, but Syndergaard did his job in Game 3.

Now he will look to pitch quality innings as the Phillies try to overcome the Houston Astros. The World Series is tied at one game apiece. It basically comes down to a best-of-five event and the Phillies need to take advantage of three straight games at Citizens Bank Park.

“Seven years just seems like a long time ago,” Syndergaard said Sunday afternoon. “I was just a very naive rookie (in 2015). I’ve had a lot of baseball since then to mature and gain experience. I’ve been in this scenario before. I think the Phillies have been in this scenario before. We’re even 1-1, we’re getting it back in Banco where I think we are quite dangerous. That playing environment will really help us.”

The Phillies acquired Syndergaard from the Los Angeles Angels at the trade deadline to provide innings at the back end of the rotation. He wasn’t slated to be part of the postseason rotation, but the Phillies are right where they need him. Kyle Gibson hit a wall late in the season and is not a starting option, although he remains on the roster for the postseason.

The Phils have made it this far in the postseason without a fourth starter they really trust. And now that No. 3 starter Ranger Suarez is back for Game 4 on Tuesday, the Phils need someone, so Syndergaard is the guy to get the ball against the rough-and-tumble Houston Astros in Game 3.

Syndergaard was a piece of the puzzle that the Phils used in Game 4 of the NLCS against Atlanta. On October 15, he pitched three innings of scoreless ball before being benched. In all, Phillies pitchers struck out 15 and walked none in an 8-3 victory on the day.

Although Syndergaard has only pitched 1⅓ innings and thrown just 17 pitches since then, the Phillies will look to get the most out of him on Monday night. They are not sure how long Suarez will be able to play in Game 4. His last two outings were in relief, when manager Rob Thomson got aggressive in getting wins in the NLCS clincher and World Series opener. Either way, the Phils could go deep in their bullpen in Games 3 and 4. They’ll take whatever they can from their starter that night, as long as he’s effective.

“I feel like I could go as long as they let me,” Syndergaard said. “Now is the time to empty the tanks.”

Lance McCullers Jr. will start for Houston. The Phillies beat him on Oct. 3, the night Aaron Nola pitched a perfect game in Game 7 that put the Phillies in the playoffs. But McCullers was tough. He allowed just one run — a Kyle Schwarber homer on the first pitch of the game — in six innings.

It sounds silly to say that Monday night’s game is crucial. This is a freaking World Series and every game is crucial.

But within that, this one is super-key. The Phillies are 10-3 this postseason and haven’t trailed in a single series. A loss would drop them in the series for the first time. A win would give them two more to play at home, where they are 5-0 so far this postseason.

This is a big swing game. And with that comes a lot of responsibility for Syndergaard, no matter how long he’s been in the game. Whether it’s one rotation through the lineup or more, he needs to keep an Astros lineup that lit up Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler for 10 runs in Games 1 and 2 in check.

“I’m just focusing on being who I can be,” Syndergaard said. “I’m not trying to get out of my pitcher’s realm. I’ve definitely learned a lot and I feel like I’ve evolved as a pitcher, not just a pitcher, over the course of this year.

“I think it’s just an important thing for me and the team as a whole to go out there and do what we’ve been doing all year. It’s the World Series, but we’ve just got to play like it’s a normal game. Don’t let it get to us. the game picks up speed. Just focus on making every move and a really good at-bat.”

Syndergaard faced the Astros twice earlier this season when he was with the Angels. He pitched 5⅔ innings of scoreless on April 9 and four innings of triple ball on July 12. He only struck out a total of four batters and allowed six walks.

With Sunday off, the Phillies will have a rested bullpen. But there is still a fourth game on Tuesday. Thomson acknowledged that Games 3 and 4 could be a challenge, pitching-wise. Nola will play its fifth game on Wednesday.

“Yeah, it’s going to be (a challenge), and that’s really why we put Ranger in Game 4, to give him that extra day,” Thomson said. “That might give him an extra 20, 25 points, as opposed to where he would have been in Game 3.

“But, yeah, we’re going to use the pencil and I have a lot of confidence in everybody that’s there. So we’re definitely going to grind them a little bit.”

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