DETROIT — New York Mets pitchers are not living up to the hype generated by their 2015 success.
The loss dropped the Mets a season-high nine games behind the first-place Washington Nationals in the division. The Mets (56-53) have not produced consecutive wins since July 6-7.
Syndergaard gave up four runs, seven hits and two walks in six innings. It marked his fifth straight start in which a high pitch count contributed to an abbreviated outing.
Syndergaard threw 112 pitches Friday. In his first 16 starts this season, Syndergaard averaged 15.0 pitches per inning. In his past five starts, in part due to more foul balls, he has averaged 18.5 pitches per inning.
“I feel like this past month has been a good learning experience for me,” Syndergaard said. “My pitch counts get escalated within the first three innings and I go, ‘Crap, I better get some quick outs here and save the bullpen.’ It’s nice to be able to go six, but I’d like to be able to go deeper into the game with a lot more ease.”
He is 1-4 with a 3.99 ERA in his last seven starts.
“It’s just been frustrating the past month because I have the confidence to go out there, and I feel like I have the stuff to go out there and dominate every team that opposes me,” Syndergaard said. “It’s just something hasn’t been clicking recently.”
A half-inning after Kelly Johnson's two-run homer against Justin Verlander had staked the Mets to a 2-1 lead, Martinez answered in the bottom of the fourth with a two-run homer against Syndergaard as the Tigers retook the lead.
Johnson had been 0-for-15 with seven strikeouts in his career against Verlander entering that at-bat. It was Johnson's second straight game with a homer after producing only four long balls in his first 87 games. He was starting at third base as manager Terry Collins reduces the use of Wilmer Flores against right-handed pitching. Flores is hitting .209/.274/.331 against righties this season.
“I went out there in that fourth inning just thinking in my head, ‘Don’t give up the lead. Don’t give up the lead,’” Syndergaard said. “That’s like trying to tell someone not to think about a pink elephant. It just doesn’t work out like that. I dropped the ball on that one mentally, and that can’t happen.”
Earlier, Syndergaard's bugaboo holding runners also surfaced. After Ian Kinsler opened the first inning with a single, he stole second and third base. That put Kinsler in position to score the game's opening run on Miguel Cabrera's groundout. Baserunners have been successful on 32 of 36 steal attempts against Syndergaard in 2016.
After Syndergaard's outing, Mets starting pitchers now own a collective 3.46 ERA, which ranks third in the majors. Still, it's indisputable that they have slowed down, perhaps because of their taxing workloads with so many tight games thanks to the team's struggles on the offensive side. Syndergaard and Steven Matz also are both pitching with bone spurs in their pitching elbows, although the Mets have minimized the issue in Syndergaard's case. Meanwhile, Matt Harvey is done for the season after undergoing surgery last month to address thoracic outlet syndrome.