ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Four batters into the game Saturday night, the Mets had three runs on four loud hits and looked every bit the invincible team they have been in the past week.
But Noah Syndergaard gave more than all of it back in a four-run, six-hit, 38-pitch bottom of the first. The rookie called it a "merry-go-round" as the Rays let the Mets know they were going to be in for a battle -- not a cakewalk under the catwalks -- in a sold-out Tropicana Field.
Still, after all the big hitting early, it was the little things the Mets didn't do on defense and the disappearance of their offense in the final seven innings that ended their winning streak at seven games as the Rays won, 5-4, before 31,042.
Curtis Granderson had a pair of solo home runs, one leading off the game and the other to tie it at 4 in the second. From there, the Mets managed only three hits against Nathan Karns (7-5) and four relievers. The Mets struck out 15 times.
With the loss and the Nationals' win, the Mets' NL East lead was cut to 1 1/2 games.
The eventual winning run scored against Syndergaard (6-6) in the fourth when John Jaso walked, stole second, moved to third on a two-out wild pitch and scored on an infield single by Evan Longoria that could have been the third out. Ruben Tejada circled Longoria's slow grounder into the shortstop hole and couldn't get a good grip before throwing off-balance to first as Jaso scored. It wasn't an error, but it's a play Tejada usually makes.
"Yeah," he said. "It made a difference in the game."
The Mets looked like world-beaters when Granderson led off with a homer to center. Daniel Murphy doubled, Yoenis Cespedes singled him to third and Lucas Duda drove in both with a double to make it 3-0.
But Jaso led off the bottom of the first with a double and Grady Sizemore smacked a two-run home run. Three of the next five batters singled to load the bases with two outs before Kevin Kiermaier floated a two-run single to right to give Tampa Bay a 4-3 lead.
After his lengthy first inning, Syndergaard lasted only three more. He allowed five runs, eight hits and two walks, striking out six. "After warming up in the bullpen, I thought I was going to go nine scoreless," he said. "First inning, I just got a little too fastball-happy."
Syndergaard threw 98 pitches in tying for the shortest outing of his career. He also went four innings on June 2 in San Diego and June 20 in Atlanta.
Syndergaard looked like a different pitcher from the one who dominated the Padres and Nationals in his last two at home (16 innings, 10 hits, two earned runs, no walks, 18 strikeouts).
"I got a little tense out there, a little frustrated, with what was going on in the first inning," he said.
Syndergaard has been a different pitcher away from Citi Field, too. He is 0-5 with a 5.01 ERA on the road and 6-1, 1.57 at home. Is there a reason?
"That's a good question," he said. "I feel just as comfortable as I am when I'm at home . . . It's just something I'm going to have to learn to deal with."
On Sunday, the Mets will have to deal with uncertainty surrounding Granderson, who fouled a ball off his right foot in the ninth. Granderson, who was scheduled for a DH day Sunday, will see how he feels before it is decided if he can play against tough righty Chris Archer.