NEW YORK -- Every force at Citi Field seemed to be willing Noah Syndergaard to further his growing legend, to finish off the ninth, to throw the first shutout of his big league career. Thousands of fans who stuck around were chanting Syndergaard's name, murmuring at first before building to
NEW YORK -- Every force at Citi Field seemed to be willing Noah Syndergaard to further his growing legend, to finish off the ninth, to throw the first shutout of his big league career. Thousands of fans who stuck around were chanting Syndergaard's name, murmuring at first before building to a crescendo. Behind the plate, catcher Rene Rivera was encouraging Syndergaard every way he knew how.
"I think I wanted it more than him," Rivera said, laughing.
Make no mistake: Syndergaard wanted it badly as well. But from the perspective of the postgame clubhouse, he was at least able to savor what he did achieve: 8 1/3 innings of 11-strikeout, standout ball in an 11-2 win over the Pirates.
"Sometimes I try to focus on too much of the negative because I want to do so well for myself," Syndergaard said. "But as of right now, I can focus and reflect on the positives I can take from it."
That category was filled to the brim. After allowing a leadoff single to John Jaso to open the game, Syndergaard retired 17 straight Pirates, seven of them via strikeout. He whiffed 11 on the night, roaring past the 100-strikeout mark in a franchise-record 81 1/3 innings, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. It was Syndergaard's fourth double-digit strikeout game this season -- remember, it's only mid-June -- and the ninth of his career.
And it came against a Pirates team that touched him up for three runs and seven hits last time out, many of them well-struck. Remembering Pittsburgh's aggression, Syndergaard and Rivera decided to counteract it with more breaking pitches than usual early in counts, particularly the second and third time through the order. The result was a cornucopia of swinging strikes and 0-1 counts, keeping Syndergaard in control of every at-bat.
It also allowed Syndergaard to keep his pitch count down. Combined with two extra days of rest between starts, and the prospect of another free day after this one, it was enough for manager Terry Collins to let Syndergaard try for the complete game with 97 pitches through eight. A leadoff double from Jaso made Collins sweat, before an RBI hit by David Freese ended Syndergaard's evening.
In perspective, it spoiled nothing but his stat line.
"We've still got a long way to go, and I'm still looking at one of the things that happened last year is we kept these guys as fresh as we could throughout the season," Collins said. "But he deserved to go out there in the ninth."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.