If Noah Syndergaard is Thor, Citi Field is his hammer.
Away starts have been cruel to the Mets righthander, but when he enters the confines of his Flushing home, the game itself seems to change, much like it did in Friday night's 2-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds.
Syndergaard hit his spots, he mixed up his pitches effectively, and, most importantly, he compensated for a team mired in offensive doldrums. To the fans that wear Thor masks and hold up action figures in his mythical likeness, Syndergaard (3-4, 3.59 ERA) more than earns his nickname.
Friday night he pitched eight innings, the longest start of his career, allowing one earned run and five hits with five strikeouts and no walks. Entering the game, he was 2-1 with a 2.13 ERA in four starts at Citi Field, with a 0.987 WHIP. And then there are days when he leaves home and his powers depart with him: Those times, he's 0-3 with a 6.52 ERA. Most recently, he allowed four earned runs in four innings at Atlanta. The bounce-back couldn't have come at a better time.
"We had a seven-day collapse," Terry Collins said before the game of the Mets' recent losing streak. "We're in a critical point. If you look at who we play in July, it's critical."
Naturally, the Mets' offense will have to catch up. They managed only two hits, though the first one was impressive. Curtis Granderson blasted a 1-and-1 fastball off Johnny Cueto to right for a leadoff homer, his 12th of the season and his fourth in six games. The Reds evened it in the second when Chris Dominguez's broken-bat groundout drove in Jay Bruce.
Things quieted down significantly after that, as Syndergaard faced the minimum in the fourth through the seventh innings. Meanwhile, the Mets got nothing Cueto didn't give them. With two outs in the fifth, Dilson Herrera hit a ball deep to right-center that just skirted past the outstretched glove of the diving Billy Hamilton for a triple. The next three batters walked, including Lucas Duda, who worked back from an 0-and-2 count to take the free pass and score Herrera.
Wright future uncertain. It was a little less than two weeks ago that Sandy Alderson said it would be realistic to expect David Wright back by the All- Star break. The Mets were in first place then. A lot can change in two weeks. on Friday, Alderson said that while Wright, suffering from lumbar spinal stenosis, has made "progress," he has yet to resume baseball activities. "And I can't tell you that on Monday, when I talk to him again, he will have transitioned to baseball activity," Alderson said. "We've got to wait and see." Perhaps Alderson's most damning appraisal? "David's situation is a little bit more ambiguous," he said. "Problematic."
Notes & quotes: Alderson said that he would be willing to overpay for good talent if it meant truly improving the team. "Are we prepared to overpay?" he said. "Me, personally, I'm prepared to overpay. But there has to be something to overpay for." He added: "You get to the point where you're focused a little bit more on the short term than you are on the long term." . . . The Mets held a moment of silence for former owner, Nelson Doubleday Jr., as well as former outfielder Darryl Hamilton . . . New Knicks Kristaps Porzingis and Jerian Grant tossed out the ceremonial first pitch.