Guardians Noah Syndergaard loves baseball, but he doesn’t love it right now

CINCINNATI — Noah Syndergaard isn’t having much fun right now.

“It’s hard to control anything else in my life when my only true love is playing baseball,” Syndergaard said after Wednesday night’s 7-2 loss to the Reds. “I’m just not having much fun right now.”

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Syndergaard had a rough time against the Reds. The first three innings were okay. He gave up a run in the first, but got out of that jam.

Cleveland tied the score, 1-1, in the third on a home run by Miles Straw and Jose Ramirez to lefty Andrew Abbott. In the fourth, however, Syndergaard allowed a pair of two-run homers to Stuart Fairchild and Matt McLain to make it 5-1.

This was a ball game.

“I feel like I’m playing on ice skates,” Syndergaard said after the game. “Every time I try to use my legs, they just slide out from under me… I don’t know.”

The 6-foot-6, 240-pound Syndergaard said he had trouble catching the ball on some pitches.

“I had some trouble with the ball tonight,” he said. “Not necessarily with my middle and index finger, but just having ball safety on the other side of my finger.

“Both the slider and the changeup I threw for the home runs had that feel. In many changes I didn’t have a good grip on the ball… and it showed.”

That’s when Syndergaard talked about how he loves baseball but can’t put all the pieces of his game back together.

“Even early on when I’m having success, it’s still like (a matter of) belief,” Syndergaard said. “I’m able to throw strikes, but sometimes I don’t have a lot of confidence on that pitch.”

The Reds, who lead the major leagues in stolen bases, stole five more on Wednesday night. Three of them came with Syndergaard on the mound. Cincinnati turned only one of those three steals into a run.

Syndergaard was 7-0 with a 3.02 ERA in nine starts against the Reds before Wednesday.

“I was definitely aware of their running game and I’m working on it,” Syndergaard said. “Right now it’s hard to be fast and have clean mechanics at the same time.

“I’m the kind of guy who relies on momentum to get my body going. When I’m basically picking up my leg and throwing my leg toward the house (with a slide step to control the run game), I feel like it’s hard to get power behind it.”

The Guardians acquired Syndergaard from the Dodgers for Amed Rosario just before the trade deadline. They knew his glory days with the Mets were behind him. But their experienced starters — Cal Quantrill, Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie — were injured. They needed an arm to fill a rotation spot alongside rookies Logan Allen, Gavin Williams, Tanner Bibee and Xzavion Curry.

“When Noah came here, he had a lot of thought (from other people),” manager Terry Francona said. “When he spoke, you could tell he was trying to process a lot. Carl (Willis, pitching coach) said, ‘OK, let’s get as athletic as you can on the mound and go from there.’

The Guardians liked what they saw from Syndergaard against Toronto. He went 5 2/3 innings, allowing one run on five hits.

“Against Toronto, he was quicker at the plate, more direct in his delivery,” Francona said. “He didn’t throw as hard, but he commanded well. We are still learning.

“In this part of his career, he’s trying to reinvent himself a little bit. He’s probably learning too.”

Syndergaard has made four starts with the Guardians. He pitched well against Houston on July 31, allowed a no-hitter against the White Sox on Aug. 5 and won his Cleveland opener against the Blue Jays on Friday.

He is 1-2 with a 5.06 ERA with Cleveland. For the season he is 2-6 with a 6.02 ERA in 16 starts.

Syndergaard underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2020. He was re-signed to the Mets in September 2021 to go two innings with one run before being released. He has since pitched with the Angels, Phillies, Dodgers and Guardians, trying to rebound as a starter who went 47-31 with a 3.32 ERA in 120 starts with the Mets.

It’s a difficult thing.

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