The Pacific Coast League has proven tough on Noah Syndergaard. The lessons he's learned, however, should make him a better pitcher in the long run and better prepare him for the big leagues.
The Mets' top prospect yielded four hits and struck out five over 6 1/3 innings Tuesday night as Triple-A Las Vegas blanked Tacoma, 4-0, in the first game of a twinbill.
Syndergaard (8-5) exited after issuing his third walk of the game to Ty Kelly with one out in the seventh. He threw 62 of 109 pitches for strikes and recorded eight ground-ball outs.
"For the most part, I attacked hitters," he said. "I was trying to be a little unpredictable. I threw quite a bit of my curveball. I threw some pretty good curveballs, and some ended up out of the strike zone. Even though it wasn't for a strike, it showed the hitter I wasn't afraid to throw a breaking pitch in certain counts."
The 21-year-old right-hander was coming off a start in which he surrendered seven runs on nine hits over five innings on July 17 against Salt Lake.
"My last outing, I thought I had some really good stuff, some of the best I had all year, but I fell behind in the count and continued to throw fastballs," he said. "Even though I didn't really give up a lot of hard contact, they just found contact."
Syndergaard brought his ERA down to 5.34 in 18 Pacific Coast League starts. Considered a tough circuit for pitchers, it's forced MLB.com's No. 10 overall prospect to refine his game a little bit and get away from what's worked in the past.
"That's been my biggest problem all year, I've been a little fastball-happy," he said. "Hitters up here, once they've seen enough fastballs in an at-bat, they can make you pay.
"Tonight, I was able to get out of my comfort zone a little bit. When I fall behind in counts, I've been throwing way too many fastballs because that's the pitch I feel the most confidence in. I threw some good changeups in key situations that got me a groundout or a swing and a miss."
Gonzalez Germen needed only four pitches to complete the 51s' third shutout of the season, getting Humberto Quintero to bounce into a double play.
Matt den Dekker, the Mets' 20th-ranked prospect, was 3-for-4 with two RBIs and finished a triple short of the cycle, while Josh Satin slugged a two-run homer for Las Vegas.
James Paxton (0-1) gave up three runs -- two earned -- on three hits over three innings in a rehab start for the Rainiers. The Mariners' No. 3 prospect walked one batter and struck out four.
Robert Emrich is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobertEmrich.