NEW YORK – Noah Syndergaard walked slowly off the mound just one out into the third inning, his head bowed and expression blank, blond hair brushing his shoulders. Thor never imagined getting hammered in his return to New York.
He knew after falling behind leadoff batter DJ LeMahieu 3-0 that it might be a long night.
“Something wasn't adding up," Syndergaard said Tuesday night after the Yankees routed the reeling Los Angeles Angels 9-1. “I just kind of noticed how tense my upper body was, and it's kind of hard to deliver a quality pitch when you're really tight out there."
Aaron Judge helped turn the game when the 6-foot-7 All-Star jumped to get his glove above the 8-foot-5 center-field wall and denied Shohei Ohtani a possible first-inning home run. Matt Carpenter’s two-run homer capped a four-run bottom half.
Starting a high-profile three-game series against Ohtani, Mike Trout & Co., New York improved on the American League’s best record, 34-14, and sent the 27-23 Angels to their season-worst sixth straight loss.
“Fortunately we got off to a wonderful start so that you can kind of absorb a moment like this," Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “When you get off to a really bad start, moments like this could be devastating.'"
A Mets fan-favorite at Citi Field from 2015-19, Syndergaard played catch in Central Park on Monday with Angels teammate Reid Detmers, who pitched a no-hitter on May 10.
Syndergaard hardly resembled his old flamethrowing self at Yankee Stadium. He missed all of 2020 following Tommy John surgery and returned to pitch two innings during the final week of last season. Syndergaard signed a $21 million, one-year deal with the Angels and has reinvented himself, 98 mph bolts now absent.
Syndergaard (4-3) got just one swinging strike among 45 pitches, averaging 94 mph with his fastball. He allowed five runs, seven hits and a walk, his ERA rising from 3.08 to 4.02.
Maddon thought he “just did not have finish.”
“He was this guy that was sitting triple digits most of his outings," Carpenter said. “”The velo is obviously not what it used to be."
Jordan Montgomery (1-1) pitched four-hit ball for seven innings, allowing Luis Rengifo’s seventh-inning homer on a hanging curveball. He credited Judge's grab as being key.
“Ohtani hit it to the moon," said Judge, who has started 17 games in center and 23 in right. “I was able to get underneath it."
Jose Trevino also homered for the Yankees and tied a career high with three hits.
Judge walked on four pitches with one out in the first, and Anthony Rizzo smoked an RBI double to the right-center gap that just glanced off the glove of a diving Trout in center.
Gleyber Torres hit a drive off the top of the glass in front of the left-field bullpen to make it 2-0 — thinking the ball was out, he jogged between first and second and was called out on a video review for overrunning third. Miguel Andújar hit a soft single, and Carpenter drove a slider into the right-field seats for his second home run since signing with the Yankees last week.
Twelve of 20 runs off Syndergaard this season have scored in the first inning. It was his second short outing in three starts after a one-out, six-run wipeout at Texas on May 16.
LeMahieu added an RBI double in the second.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone smiled afterwards when thinking about how he let Judge start to play center field last season following years of lobbying.
“I just got sick of him in my office," Boone said, “so I said: 'Fine, let's go.'"
After Ohtani doubled with two outs in the sixth for his sixth hit — and first non-homer — in 39 at-bats against the Yankees, Isiah Kiner-Falefa ranged into the shortstop hole to make a diving stop on Trout’s grounder and throw to first just in time to retire the three-time MVP.
Trevino got the Yankees a run in the sixth inning when he came home on LeMahieu’s grounder, deked around catcher Max Stassi, fell in the dirt behind the plate and reached out with his left hand to slap the plate. Judge followed with a sacrifice fly. Trevino added a two-run homer in the eighth.
Los Angeles was successful on a video challenge for just the fourth time in 15 tries this season.
THROWING, NOT DRIVING
Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson threw a ceremonial first pitch that looped toward the plate.
Left-hander Kenny Rosenberg was recalled by the Angels from Triple-A Salt Lake and threw 99 pitches over five innings of relief.
Yankees: OF/DH Giancarlo Stanton (strained right calf) could be activated Saturday, the first day he is eligible. ... 3B Josh Donaldson (right shoulder inflammation) could be activated Sunday. ... LHP Aroldis Chapman (left Achilles) played catch for the first time since going on the IL. ... OF Tim Locastro (last played May 4 due to a strained left lat) was 0 for 3 as he started a rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
LHP Nestor Cortes (4-1, 1.70 ERA) takes a .175 opponents’ batting average, lowest among qualified pitchers, into Wednesday’s start against the Anges and LHP Reid Detmers (2-2, 4.65).
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