Dodgers fail to capitalize on Noah Syndergaard’s impressive debut in loss

Dodgers starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard delivers during the fourth inning of a 2-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Dodgers starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard delivers during the fourth inning of a 2-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
(Harry How / Getty Images)

It took four spring training starts for Noah Syndergaard to come to grips with the fact that, despite his December proclamation that there is “no excuse as to why I can’t get back to 100 mph,” his once-vaunted fastball is not going to approach triple digits like it did before 2020 elbow surgery.

“If I don’t throw 100 [mph] again,” the new Dodgers pitcher said on the eve of the regular season, “that’s fine.”

And that’s perfectly fine with the Dodgers, who weren’t expecting the second coming of Sandy Alcantara when they signed Syndergaard to a one-year, $13-million contract.


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They will gladly take Sunday’s version of Syndergaard, when the right-hander displayed superb command of a four-pitch mix and held the Arizona Diamondbacks to one run and four hits in six innings, striking out six and walking none, in a 2-1 loss before a crowd of 46,549 in Dodger Stadium.

“I thought he was really good early, that life, the teeth, to all of his pitches, the swing-and-miss,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He was very efficient. He did a great job managing that lineup. … Unfortunately, we just couldn’t put up a crooked number today.”

An offense that amassed 18 runs and 20 hits in the two games the Dodgers won in the season-opening, four-game series mustered one run — on Will Smith’s 347-foot homer off the left-field foul pole in the first inning — and four hits on Sunday.

The top three batters in the order, Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and Smith, combined to go four for 10. The bottom six went 0 for 21. The Dodgers struck out 11 times and went hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position.

“I still like our lineup,” Roberts said. “I just think there’s a few guys that haven’t gotten on track yet.”

The Diamondbacks broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the ninth off reliever Brusdar Graterol, whose inability to neutralize left-handed hitters and generate enough swing-and-miss — the two biggest reasons the hard-throwing right-hander hasn’t seized a closing role — cost the Dodgers.


Ketel Marte slapped an opposite-field double inside the third-base bag. Lourdes Gurriel grounded a single to right. Betts, who moved from second base to the outfield to start the ninth, charged, fielded the ball cleanly and fired a laser to the plate to nail Marte, a call that was upheld by instant replay.

Dodgers catcher Will Smith tags out Arizona's Ketel Marte at home plate in the ninth inning Sunday.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

“To play eight innings of second base, and the first play out there, you throw a strike to home to really impact the game at that point …” Roberts said, “It’s just pretty special.”

Betts’ second outfield assist of the season provided a temporary reprieve. Christian Walker singled to center. Corbin Carroll grounded into a fielder’s choice to put men on first and third with two outs. Carroll stole second.

Jake McCarthy tapped a drag bunt toward first base. Graterol, one of the better fielding pitchers in baseball, raced toward the line and tried to scoop the ball with his glove and swipe a tag on the speedy McCarthy in one motion. But the ball squirted out of his glove, allowing Gurriel to score for a 2-1 lead. The bunt was ruled a hit.

“Those guys like to do that stuff, so I wasn’t entirely surprised,” Smith, the Dodgers catcher, said of the bunt. “But I’d take [Graterol] as a pitcher fielding his position over anybody. I think he makes that play 99 times out of 100.”

Arizona's Jake McCarthy puts down a bunt during the ninth inning.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
Dodgers relief pitcher Brusdar Graterol can't field an RBI bunt single by Jake McCarthy during the ninth inning.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The late run spoiled a Dodgers debut in which Syndergaard’s fastball averaged 92.7 mph and topped out at 94.3 mph. But he had good feel for a 90-mph cut-fastball and kept hitters off balance with an 87-mph changeup that finished four of his strikeouts. He threw 57 of 78 pitches for strikes and induced 13 swinging strikes.

“Physically and mentally, I felt really good,” Syndergaard said. “The changeup and cutter were working well at the beginning of the game. For the most part, I felt confident throwing any pitch in any given count.”

Syndergaard retired the side in order in the second, third, fourth and sixth innings. He was nicked for a run in the fifth when Carroll singled, stole second and third on consecutive pitches with two outs and scored when Geraldo Perdomo dunked a double to shallow right for a 1-1 tie.

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Syndergaard was pulled after yielding a leadoff single to Walker in the seventh and received a rousing ovation as he walked off the field.


“It was awesome,” Syndergaard said. “I’m a big believer in first impressions. New home, new fan base, so I just wanted to go out there and execute and attack hitters and just leave a really good impression. Now we got the first one over, nerves kind of calmed down. All in all, I think it was a really good outing.”