CINCINNATI — When it comes to their approach with Noah Syndergaard lately, the Dodgers have looked like a desperate blackjack player unable to leave the table.
Lose, bet again.
Lose, bet again.
Lose, bet yet again.
On Wednesday, that latest gamble worked out the same way as the others.
Syndergaard was rocked by the Cincinnati Reds young lineup, giving up six runs in three dismal innings. He failed to stop their running game, allowing successful steals on all four attempts.
Despite being gifted two early leads, he also couldn’t keep the Dodgers in front at Great American Ball Park, his struggles hampering the club in an 8-6 loss that was decided by Will Benson’s two-run, walk-off home run in the ninth against Evan Phillips.
“It’s just kind of hard to stop the bleeding right now,” Syndergaard said. “I’m running out of words to explain what’s going on.”
The real question now: How many more chips does the team have left to burn on their $13 million offseason signing?
The likely answer: none, at least not anytime soon.
After his team’s fourth loss in a row, manager Dave Roberts hinted that a stint on the injured list was possible for Syndergaard.
The specific reason would probably be for a blister/fingernail issue that Roberts said has dogged the right-hander.
But the larger context is that the 30-year-old former All-Star is in desperate need of a mental and physical reset, with his ERA now at 7.16 — third worst in the majors among pitchers with 50 innings — through 12 difficult starts.
“Obviously, I don’t think we can sustain this pace of performance,” Roberts said. “We’re trying to turn over all the stones and find an answer, but we can’t come up with an answer.”
Indeed, after fleeting moments of optimism early this season, Syndergaard’s recent decline has left him looking increasingly lost.
Handed a 2-0 lead after the top of the first inning, he immediately squandered it on a majestic 458-foot home run from Elly De La Cruz, the first homer for the sport’s top prospect.
With the Dodgers leading 6-2 in the third, Syndergaard stumbled again.
He gave up triples to De La Cruz and Matt McLain, each of whom scored an at-bat later. Then Tyler Stephenson knotted the score with another two-run blast, charging Syndergaard with 22 earned runs in his last 23 innings.
“The feeling I had out there was a lot better than the results,” Syndergaard said, voicing some confidence that, whenever he returns to the mound, he’ll be able to “overcome” his disastrous last couple of months.
For now, however, “I’m just not really good at getting big league hitters out,” he said. “So I’m open to whatever.”
Though the decision on Syndergaard’s next step isn’t final, all signs point to a potentially extended IL stint.
Julio Urías is expected to return from a hamstring strain Sunday, a move that will necessitate a change to the Dodgers’ rotation.
And given the promise rookie starters Bobby Miller and Michael Grove have shown, Syndergaard was already the obvious candidate to be replaced — well before mention of his blister, and what Roberts deemed a “fingernail break” that occured during Wednesday’s outing, resurfaced postgame.
“He’s going through it,” Roberts said. “He’s been going through it all year. It’s not from a lack of effort, preparation or care. But it’s just not working.”
Sydnergaard’s struggles have taken a toll on the team as well.
After watching their early leads Wednesday disappear, the Dodgers’ offense fell silent over the final six innings.
“I think there might have been a little wind out of our sail,” Roberts acknowledged. “When you feel like you’ve got momentum, and then when you give it away, not to make excuses for those guys, but I’ve been in those shoes. How many runs is enough, you know?”
The bullpen was also left to shoulder a heavy burden, managing to pitch five scoreless innings — including two perfect frames from debuting right-hander Nick Robertson — before Phillips missed his spot with a cutter in the ninth.
“I don’t know if I’ve missed that bad in that kind of moment before,” Phillips said.
Still, it was Syndergaard’s failures that loomed largest on the night, and continued to underline the pitching problems.
Finally, it seems like the team is ready to stand up and, if not move on, at least shift the right-hander to the sideline for the time being — an implicit concession that, to this point, his acquisition has been a total bust.
“I’m going to talk to the trainer, and we’ll figure out what’s the best course of action for Noah on the physical side,” Roberts said. “For the emotional side, certainly it’s weighing very heavily on him.”
Rojas exits early
Miguel Rojas left Wednesday’s game because of neck tightness that Roberts said he has been battling the last several days. The shortstop will sit Thursday, according to the manager, and be reassessed going into the team’s trip to Philadelphia this weekend.