By Jon Weisman
The first time was a shocker. The second time was a stunner.
No, this isn’t about the two home runs Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard allowed. It’s about the two he hit.
Facing Kenta Maeda, Syndergaard hit two no-doubt blasts, each leaving the bat at 104 mph, the first a solo shot to break a scoreless tie in the first, the second a backbreaker to rally New York from a 2-1 deficit to a 4-2 lead, and eventually a 4-3 victory.
The 23-year-old Syndergaard, who throws right but bats left, became the third pitcher to homer twice in a game off Dodger pitching, following Jim Hearn on July 9, 1955 (off Karl Spooner and Clem Labine) at the Polo Grounds, and Lew Burdette on July 10, 1958 (off Johnny Podres and Ed Roebuck) at the Coliseum.
According to Stats LLC, Maeda is the second Dodger franchise pitcher to allow multiple home runs to pitchers in one game, joining Doug McWeeny, victimized by the Pirates’ Erv Brame and Fred Fussell on July 7, 1929 in the Brooklyn Robins’ 17-6 loss at Ebbets Field.
The only previous pitcher to homer twice at Dodger Stadium was Darren Dreifort, on August 8, 2000 off Phil Norton and Todd Van Poppel.
Crazily, Syndergaard came up in the sixth inning with a chance to push this night to TILT with a grand slam, but after crushing the first two pitches from Chris Hatcher foul, struck out. The Mets would waste bases-loaded opportunities in that inning as well as the seventh.
Nevertheless, Syndergaard flipped the lid on a night in which Corey Seager and Yasmani Grandal homered in back-to-back innings to give the Dodgers a one-run lead in the fourth.
Maeda had mostly cruised to that point. Yoenis Cespedes singled to start a two-on, none-out jam in the second inning, but Maeda escaped, and retired the next nine position players he faced (with Syndergaard being the notable exception).
But starting the fifth inning, Maeda hit Eric Campbell in the back with the baseball, then wasted eight pitches walking Rene Rivera, who was 1 for 10 on the season. Syndergaard crushed a 2-2 slider from Maeda 396 feet to left-center field.
Maeda pitched two batters into the sixth inning, retiring neither and leaving with the shortest of his seven MLB starts: five innings. His ERA rose to 2.30.
“He was using his breaking ball a lot tonight and just didn’t have that sharpness to it, working behind hitters,” Dave Roberts said. “Didn’t have the fastball command. The homer to Syndergaard, the first one, was a misfire, and the other one was a backdoor breaking ball located down and away, and he’s a strong kid.
“He still found a way to limit damage outside of that. You get the nine hitter hitting two home runs and driving in four runs, you don’t see that every day.”
Meanwhile, Syndergaard retired the next 10 batters he faced after his second home run, including pinch-hitter Trayce Thompson, Tuesday’s walkoff hero, who had homered twice in this series. A one-out single by Seager in the eighth was erased when Howie Kendrick hit into a double play.
Despite having thrown only 95 pitches, Syndergaard did not come out for the ninth inning, keeping alive a remarkable fact.
Based on research at Baseball-Reference.com, the last time a pitcher hit two homers while throwing a complete game was in 1971, when it happened four times — including three in one week.
- Rick Wise, June 23, 1971 (a no-hitter)
- Wise again, August 28, 1971
- Fergie Jenkins, September 1, 1971
- Sonny Siebert, September 2, 1971
The Dodger bullpen kept the game close with four shutout innings, half of those by Joe Blanton. Adrian Gonzalez led off the bottom of the ninth with a double off Jeurys Familia and eventually scored on a 110 mph groundout up the middle by Joc Pederson, but Yasiel Puig struck out to end the game.