NEW YORK -- Presented with the challenge of opposing one of the most successful postseason pitchers baseball has ever known, Noah Syndergaard proved why the Mets have come to fully appreciate his ability to dominate in aggressive fashion while harnessing his emotions like a seasoned veteran.The physically intimidating Syndergaard displayed
NEW YORK -- Presented with the challenge of opposing one of the most successful postseason pitchers baseball has ever known, Noah Syndergaard proved why the Mets have come to fully appreciate his ability to dominate in aggressive fashion while harnessing his emotions like a seasoned veteran.
The physically intimidating Syndergaard displayed his moxie in impressive fashion, as he was not deterred by the pressure of matching against Madison Bumgarner in a win-or-go-home National League Wild Card Game at Citi Field on Wednesday night. He carried a no-hit bid into the sixth inning of the most influential start of his young career, then had to watch helplessly as the Giants advanced with a 3-0 win that came courtesy of Conor Gillaspie's three-run homer in the ninth off closer Jeurys Familia.
"He stepped up when we needed him," manager Terry Collins said. "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."
Bumgarner added to his legend and lowered his career postseason ERA to 1.93 as he tossed a four-hit shutout that included 119 pitches (78 strikes). His performance was nearly matched by that of Syndergaard, who notched 10 strikeouts and limited the Giants to two hits over seven scoreless innings.
"I think the only thing that 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 up until game time, I was pretty calm, and I was convincing myself it was the same game and not a [must-win] situation."
With this loss, the Mets bid adieu to a season in which they overcame adversity to reach the postseason thanks to the steadying dominance provided by Syndergaard, who recorded a 2.65 ERA after the All-Star break and anchored a rotation decimated by injuries.
"He rose to the occasion," Collins said. "That's why I think he's going to be very special, because you can't be a lot better [than Syndergaard was] when you're challenged in these situations. He did a great job."
As Syndergaard progressed through the early stages of his fourth career postseason start, it was quickly apparent that he had the potential to do something special. He initially struggled to find a feel for his slider, but his incredible heater helped him strike out five of the first eight batters he faced and prove perfect until he issued consecutive walks to begin the fourth.
Eight of the 20 fastballs Syndergaard threw during the first two innings were clocked at 99 mph. His slider touched 93 mph a few times during this span.
"That was the best outing he's had when I caught him this year," catcher René Rivera said. "His intensity was focused, and all of his first pitches were great. He did a great job today."
Syndergaard's no-hit bid was erased when Denard Span singled with two outs in the sixth inning. Span then stole second base, but he was stranded when Curtis Granderson crashed into the center-field wall to rob Brandon Belt of a go-ahead extra-base hit.
After Syndergaard stranded two more baserunners in the seventh, he was removed with his pitch count at 108 -- 10 below the career high he tallied on July 31, against the Rockies.
Gillaspie's homer off Familia denied Syndergaard the opportunity to celebrate his splendid effort, but his performance provided the baseball world further reason to believe he is capable of joining Bumgarner and those special few who have become October legends.
"That was as well pitched a game as you could possibly ask for," Mets right fielder Jay Bruce said. "He had everything going. It was really, really fun to watch. Obviously, we were on the losing end, and that's not how we wanted to end the season, but that baseball game, that was a playoff game."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.