Noah Syndergaard surpasses Justin Verlander in first season start

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Noah Syndergaard and Justin Verlander have spent the better part of the past two years working Saturday night, when their trips back from Tommy John surgery coincidentally converged at Angel Stadium.

Although Syndergaard came out slightly happier than Verlander, the two right-handed veterans seem firmly on the right track.

Syndergaard went two-hitter in the sixth inning on a strong debut for the Angels, narrowly beating Verlander in Los Angeles’ 2-0 win over the Houston Astros.

Mike Trout and Jared Walsh scored the Angels’ first win of the season. The Halos held defending champion AL Houston to two hits, with Raisel Iglesias’ stoppage capping 3 2/3 innings without a hit from the bullpen.

Syndergaard (1-0) and Verlander (0-1) both performed impressively in the Big A, with Walsh’s solo shot on Verlander’s first pitch of the second inning ultimately making the difference.

Syndergaard produced two weak singles and two walks in 5 1/3 innings. While the hulking right-hander known as Thor had just one strikeout, he forced the Astros’ powerhouse roster to the ground with 11 strikeouts.

Syndergaard wears number 34 again for the Angels, as he did for the Mets, but it has special meaning in Anaheim.

Noah Syndergaard

It’s also the number worn by Nick Adenhart, the up-and-coming Angels starter killed by a drunk driver hours after pitching six blank innings at the Big A exactly 13 years ago on Saturday. Syndergaard obtained the blessing of Adenhart’s family to wear the number, which had not been worn by an Angels player since.

“All day I had goosebumps, because it was the 13th anniversary of Adenhart’s tragic kidnapping,” Syndergaard said. “I felt like an angel was by my side tonight. It was really special for me.

Verlander threw five one-run innings, allowing three hits and three walks while escaping several tight spots. He retired seven, including AL MVP Shohei Ohtani three times.

“It’s a long road, man,” Verlander said. “A lot of nervousness and anxiety leading up to it. Felt like my debut. I have things to work on, but I’m coming out of it pretty well.

Justin Verlander
Justin Verlander

Syndergaard has been limited to two one-run appearances — both late last year — for New York over the past two seasons while returning from surgery. He signed a one-year, $21 million deal with Los Angeles and emerged from spring training with a healthy arm and the determination to show he’s back.

“It was fun playing behind (Syndergaard),” Trout said. “He was throwing punches and trying to get back into the dugout as fast as he could. You saw it tonight. He was over there grinding.

Verlander had surgery in September 2020 and missed last season while recovering. Now 39, the two-time AL winner Cy Young looked capable of resuming his career at his usual elite level.

“He really broke down when he was in trouble,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “He’s competing as well as any I’ve seen.”

Verlander hit Ohtani looking twice with inside pitches that painted black, though both calls displeased the AL MVP. Verlander celebrated with a subtle fist pump after escaping a fifth-inning jam by stoking Ohtani, then pulling Trout out on a flyout to ground two Angels.

“I think the stats made me look more comfortable than me,” Verlander said. “I think we’ll have a lot of fun battles, him and me.”

Verlander said he enjoyed watching Ohtani play back and forth on opening day: “It’s one of the most awesome and coolest things I’ve seen in a long time. I have chills. … It’s great what he’s doing. Just really impressive. I am a big fan.”

New York Post

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