The Rays lineup is a tough matchup for anyone in 2023. As a team this season, Tampa Bay’s .271/.347/.501 line and 139 wRC+ is roughly equivalent to Mookie Betts’ excellent career 136 wRC+. The Rays were especially taxing for Noah Syndergaard in Friday night’s 9-3 win over the Dodgers at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.
A big part of the Dodgers pitching woes of the last week and a half is that Syndergaard now occupies such a prominent role on the depth chart. The blister issues of his right index finger seem to have been resolved, in that he can pitch with an adhesive covering the blister.
But the real blistering has come off the bats of hitters facing Syndergaard. Four Rays had hard-hit balls in the first inning, including Yandy Díaz’s 109.8-mph double to lead off the frame and Jose Lowe’s 104.4-mph single that gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead.
Lowe also stole second base, because Syndergaard is the easiest pitcher against whom to take extra bases. The Rays stole three off of Syndergaard and four total against the Dodgers on Friday, increasing their MLB-best total to 66 stolen bases on the season. Syndergaard on the season has allowed 15 stolen bases. That leads the majors, just like he led the majors in steals allowed in 2022 (30 steals), 2019 (42), 2018 (32), and 2016 (48), his last four full seasons.
Two more runs came in the second inning, which started with a double, walk, and single. Such is the problem for Syndergaard, who induced just eight swinging strikes among his 94 pitches on the night.
Syndergaard allowed 11 hard-hit balls on Friday, defined as any batted ball with an exit velocity of 95 mph or higher. That included Díaz’s solo home run in the fourth inning, 100.1 mph off the bat.
To Syndergaard’s credit, he did retire his final seven batters faced to get through six innings, the only Dodgers starter to last that long in the last 12 games. But the damage was already done.
Things could have been even worse were it not for Chris Taylor making two incredible leaping catches at the wall in left field in successive innings, one with Syndergaard in the game in the sixth and again with left-hander Justin Bruihl on the hill in the seventh.
Opposing hitters are batting .298/.337/.476 against Syndergaard this season.
Among the 109 major league pitchers with at least 40 innings this season, Syndergaard ranks 102nd in ERA (6.27), 66th in FIP (4.50), and 97th in strikeout rate (16.1 percent).
Syndergaard doesn’t miss bats, he gets hit hard, and when anyone gets on base it’s incredibly easy to take extra bases. Other than literally nobody else on the major league depth chart being available at the moment, there is no compelling reason for Syndergaard to continue to start games for the Dodgers.
"Just not a lot of positive emotion right now when I think about pitching in particular... going to continue to work my butt off between starts to snap out of this." Noah Syndergaard discusses his ongoing struggles. pic.twitter.com/mvJTHcIzDT— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) May 27, 2023
"It's certainly not ideal," Dave Roberts said of Noah Syndergaard's 6.27 ERA through 10 starts. Said the Dodgers don't have an immediate internal option available right now – "I think right now, we've got to continue to run him out there and expect better results."— Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) May 27, 2023
Home runs: Yandy Díaz (12), Jose Siri (9)
WP — Cooper Criswell (1-1): 4 IP, 4 hits, 1 run, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts
LP — Noah Syndergaard (1-4): 5 IP, 8 hits, 6 runs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts
Clayton Kershaw was activated off bereavement list on Friday and will start the middle game of the series for the Dodgers on Saturday (1:10 p.m. PT, SportsNet LA). He’ll face Tyler Glasnow, who is making his 2023 debut after missing the first eight weeks with an oblique strain.