Terry Collins, the New York Mets’ manager, was coming to the close of his postgame interview in a hallway at Dodger Stadium when he dropped a potentially alarming bit of news.
Noah Syndergaard, who had just pitched an excellent game over eight innings, had his right elbow examined two weeks ago, Collins said.
Obviously, that is a worrisome sign for the Mets.
Syndergaard, after all, is among the most productive sluggers on the Mets. On Wednesday night, he hit two home runs, giving him three homers in only 28 games in National League parks.
Of course, Syndergaard’s real value is as a pitcher, although he might one day gain a role as a pinch-hitter.
Collins said he only recently discovered that Syndergaard saw a doctor about his elbow, and did not elaborate on the reason.
Syndergaard, one of the few Mets pitchers in the starting rotation who has not had Tommy John surgery, said he did not have any pain or tightness when he went to see the doctor, but he would not say more.
When asked what prompted the visit, he said: “Nothing really. Just all precautionary.”
There is nothing in Syndergaard’s recent use to suggest he has a serious problem. On April 25, he threw 107 pitches in a win over the Cincinnati Reds. Since then, he has taken the ball on his regular turn, throwing 98, 97 and 95 pitches in his last three outings, the latter two on normal, four days’ rest.
He has also been throwing as hard as usual, regularly hitting 100 mph on the radar gun.
Syndergaard’s doctor visit was one of several bits of injury news related Wednesday.
Before the game, Steven Matz said that he had discomfort in his elbow after he pitched Monday, so he will miss his scheduled start Saturday and be re-evaluated. Collins said third baseman David Wright had a bothersome shoulder, but Wright dismissed it by saying, “I’m fine.” And Wilmer Flores was sent back to New York after he injured his hamstring.
But even the news of Syndergaard’s doctor visit could barely temper the excitement of what the pitcher had done in Wednesday’s game: He hit two home runs off the Los Angeles Dodgers rookie starter Kenta Maeda.
Syndergaard became only the second Mets pitcher to hit two home runs in a game, and the first in more than three decades. Walt Terrell hit two against Ferguson Jenkins of the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field in 1983.
Syndergaard did it four days after the Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon hit his first home run in his 19-year career. Syndergaard’s second homer of the night was a three-run shot, giving him four runs batted in. That tied a Mets record for pitchers, last achieved by Matz a season ago.
Nicknamed Thor for his Norse heritage and his mighty fastball, Syndergaard is often said to bring the hammer down on opposing batters. But on Wednesday his hammer was the bat in his hands: He produced all of the Mets’ offense and earned the win in a 4-3 victory.
Asked how he felt rounding the bases after he saw the second ball go over the wall, Syndergaard was far more expansive about that experience than he was about his doctor visit.
“It felt like it was a dream,” he said. “It’s not real. I don’t think I ever hit two home runs when I played Little League. To hit two home runs in a major league ballgame, especially against a pitcher like Maeda, it’s an awesome experience.”
In Syndergaard’s first at-bat, in the third inning, he put a picturesque swing on the first pitch he saw from Maeda and sent it into the bleachers in right field.
In the fifth, he came to the plate with runners on first and second and was given the bunt sign. Fortunately for him, he could not get the bunt down; with two strikes, the bunt was taken off, and Syndergaard was told to swing away.
He hit a 2-2 slider over the fence in left-center, a three-blast.
Based on what his pitcher had done in his first at-bat, Collins said he briefly pondered the idea of letting Syndergaard swing away from the beginning of the at-bat.
“Yeah, it crossed my mind,” the manager said. “Then I had him bunt. And I had him hit a homer.”
Syndergaard (3-2) also allowed two home runs, solo shots by Corey Seager in the third inning and Yasmani Grandal in the fourth. He scattered four other hits, struck out six and recorded 14 groundouts.
He became the first major league pitcher to hit two home runs in a game since Aug. 18, 2007, when Micah Owings hit two for the Arizona Diamondbacks against the Braves in Atlanta.