NEW YORK (AP) Noah Syndergaard got caught again, this time by the smart-swinging Los Angeles Dodgers.
Syndergaard kept wobbling with Wilson Ramos behind the plate while Clayton Kershaw was right in the pocket, sending the Dodgers over the New York Mets 9-2 Friday night.
''It wasn't terrible,'' Mets manager Mickey Callaway said.
No, but it wasn't what they needed, either, against the NL West champions.
Coming off a four-game sweep of Arizona, Syndergaard and the Mets fell flat. They dropped three games behind Chicago and Milwaukee for the second NL wild-card spot. Philadelphia also is ahead of New York, which was eliminated from contention in the NL East.
Earlier this week, it was revealed Syndergaard (10-8) recently went to his bosses, expressing his wishes to pitch to someone other than Ramos. Known more his hitting than his defensive ability, Ramos got this start - Callaway wanted Ramos' bat in the lineup, trusting Syndergaard's ''mentality'' and adding before the game, ''I have faith in Noah he's going to pitch a good game no matter who's catching him.''
It worked, at least for three innings.
''I think we were really meshing and flowing,'' Syndergaard said.
But in the fourth, a walk to Cody Bellinger and singles by Corey Seager and A.J. Pollock produced one run, then rookie Gavin Lux hit a three-run homer .
Ramos swiped at a towel on the bench when the inning ended. Syndergaard was pulled after five innings and 102 pitches, allowing four runs on five hits and two walks.
The Dodgers did a great job of spoiling two-strike pitches, hitting a bunch of foul balls to prolong at-bats. Bellinger, who has 108 RBIs, saw 22 pitches in three trips against Syndergaard.
Syndergaard has a 5.20 ERA in 16 starts with Ramos catching. The big right-hander has a 2.22 ERA in 11 starts throwing to backups Tomas Nido and Rene Rivera.
Syndergaard called a lot of this week's controversy a ''misunderstanding'' and said this outing was ''a step in the right direction.''
He does, however, want to ''figure out an understanding of why my splits are so different.''
Syndergaard, by the way, did get to throw to Nido and Rivera, too - they took turns warming him up when Ramos was stranded on the bases and needed extra time to put on his gear. Nido later entered to catch the ninth inning.
Kershaw (14-5) stopped a rare three-start skid and improved to 10-0 in regular-season play against the Mets. The Dodgers won their ninth in a row at Citi Field dating to 2016.
Kershaw avoided the first four-game losing streak of his decorated career. He gave up a first-inning homer to J.D. Davis and threw a season-high 105 pitches.https://www.mlb.com/video/kershaw-fans-5-in-6-1-3-innings
''I wanted to stretch him a little bit or kind of build up that endurance, and I thought he deserved it,'' Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner left after a four-pitch walk to pinch-hitter Pete Alonso loaded the bases with one out in the seventh. His only loss to the Mets came in the 2015 NL Division Series, when he went 1-1.
Pinch-hitter Chris Taylor delivered a two-run double and scored on Bellinger's single in the seventh. Rookie Edwin Rios had a pinch-hit homer in the eighth off Walker Lockett.
SWING AND A MISS
As Kershaw exited the mound in the seventh, a TV cameraman walked alongside the lefty, shooting from only a few feet away. As Kershaw approached the dugout, he swiped his glove at the camera, pulling up just short.
''He's too close,'' Kershaw said postgame.
Dodgers: 1B Max Muncy went 0 for 3 with two walks in his first game since Aug. 28. He'd been on the injured list with a fractured right wrist. ... LHP Rich Hill will have an MRI on Monday to determine the extent of the knee problem that forced him to exit in the first inning of Thursday night's start at Baltimore. It was his first game in the majors after missing 12 weeks with a strained left forearm. ''Really frustrating,'' Hill said. ... 3B Justin Turner (ankle sprain) could return to the starting lineup Tuesday, Roberts said.
Mets: Alonso didn't start for the first time since Aug. 4. The rookie first baseman who leads the majors with 47 home runs has missed only one game this season. Callaway said he felt Alonso needed a day off after watching him struggle at the plate Thursday. Callaway said he anticipates Alonso starting the rest of the way.
Dodgers: LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (12-5, 2.45 ERA) is 4-1 with a 1.38 ERA in seven starts against the Mets.
Mets: RHP Jacob deGrom (9-8, 2.70 ERA) is 0-4 with a 3.23 ERA in nine starts vs. the Dodgers.
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