Past the sting of the abrupt end to their season, beyond the dull ache of having the Giants celebrating down the hallway from the home clubhouse, the Mets could at least cling to this following Wednesday’s epic pitcher’s duel:
They’ve got someone who can match postseason freak Madison Bumgarner, at least for most of a taut October game.
Noah Syndergaard, on his way ever since he got to the majors last year, is now the Mets’ ace and he’s got the playoff pedigree to prove it after throwing seven scoreless innings Wednesday night, striking out 10. Maybe that means something in the Octobers of the future, even if there’s only disappointment this time after the Giants’ ace beat the Mets, 3-0, in the National League wild-card Game at Citi Field.
“I’ve got to rank this one as good as any, under the circumstances,” Terry Collins said of Syndergaard’s performance. “Great command. I mean, focused like he always is. I tell you, he stepped up when we needed him. He stepped up last year when we needed him. He’s grown so much, even though he’s still very, very young. He’s grown so much and matured so much as a pitcher.
“He’s going to be really, really good.”
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Syndergaard won two postseason games last October, including the Mets’ only victory over the Royals in the World Series, but he was not nearly this dominant then. Wednesday, he held the Giants hitless until Denard Span singled with two out in the sixth inning. He struck out 10, the fifth time a Met has reached double-digit strikeouts in the postseason, and allowed only two singles and three walks.
He’s only the third Met pitcher ever to throw at least seven scoreless innings and give up two or fewer hits in a postseason game, joining Bobby Jones in Game 4 of the 2000 NLDS and Jon Matlack in Game 2 of the 1973 NLCS, who both threw shutouts.
Conor Gillaspie, the Giant who slugged the winning HR off Jeurys Familia in the ninth, summed up best how good Syndergaard was, saying,“I was pretty excited that Syndergaard wasn’t in there” for the crucial at-bat.
“Let me get that out there first,” Gillaspie said. “He’s got some of the best stuff I’ve ever seen.”
Syndergaard’s fastball was electric — he threw 42 pitches at or above 98 mph, according to the baseball information service Inside Edge — and was able to keep batters from sitting on the heat by using low 90s breaking pitches and a hellacious changeup.
“Syndergaard was the best I’ve ever seen him,” catcher Rene Rivera said. “He did what he’s supposed to do. He battled with Bumgarner and that’s why he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball.
“He showed he could be a No. 1 on any staff.”
In a season in which their promising young rotation was ravaged by physical problems, with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz all KO’d by injury, Syndergaard emerged as the Mets’ most electric weapon. In a huge game with more inherent tension even than Game 3 of the World Series, the 6-6 righty with the comic-book nickname and a hairdo straight off the cover of a romance novel delivered a performance worthy of the moment.
“What kind of shocked me before the game was I was aware of how calm I was,” Syndergaard said. “I thought the emotions would be a little juiced. But until the game time, I was pretty calm and kind of tricked myself into thinking it was still the same game, although it was a do-or-die situation.”
That’s ace talk, folks.
Still, he could acknowledge the tension. “You could cut it with a butter knife,” he said.
How was he able to quell his emotions? “I wish I had an answer,” Syndergaard said. “I just kind of did it. No secret there.”
He even had the politically-correct sort of mantra for matching up with an October legend: “I’m just going out there trying to win each pitch,” Syndergaard said several times, while stressing that he wasn’t battling Bumgarner with each delivery. Still, he did have to face the lefty and struck out twice.
“I couldn’t see it,” Syndergaard said of his own at-bats. “So it wasn’t pretty.
“Bumgarner pitched a helluva game, congrats to him on that part.”
Afterward, he and the Mets were left with the emptiness of the end of their season. It hadn’t sunk in a few minutes after the final out, Syndergaard said. “Probably won’t for a few days,” he added. “Maybe a few weeks.”
Then, perhaps, the Mets can fully appreciate what Syndergaard did Wednesday night. He’s not Bumgarner yet — who is? — but there are no gimmes on the nights Syndergaard pitches, no matter the opponent, no matter the stakes. The Mets have their man.
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News