PITTSBURGH -- Gerrit Cole emerged victorious in a battle of electric young right arms Friday night, outdueling Noah Syndergaard and looking like one of the National League's top pitchers as the Pirates beat the Mets, 4-1, at PNC Park.
"It's the best performance I've seen him throw so far," Pirates catcher Chris Stewart said. "He just keeps getting better and better. The sky's the limit for him right now."
Cole ran out of the Pirates' dugout to start the ninth inning, seeking the first complete game of his big league career, but he fell two outs short. The 24-year-old right-hander struck out 10 and threw a career-high 8 1/3 innings, improving to 6-2 with a 2.05 ERA after his seventh quality start of the season.
"When you looked up in the ninth inning, he was still throwing 97 [mph]," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "His slider was absolutely devastating at times in the middle of the game. We knew going in he was going to be tough to hit."
Cole's gem was a welcome relief for the Pirates, as they entered the night having lost six of seven. But Cole almost singlehandedly willed Pittsburgh to victory, as the Mets managed only six hits and one unearned run.
"It was exciting. We've had a rough go at things the last week or so, and it was a cool opportunity," Cole said. "Hopefully I'll do better next time I get that chance."
The 22-year-old Syndergaard gave up four runs (three earned) on seven hits while striking out five over six innings. He gave up a pair of runs on three straight hits in the second inning, then retired the next eight Pirates he faced, eventually allowing two more runs in the sixth.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Polanco single snaps skid: Pirates manager Clint Hurdle slotted Gregory Polanco into the seventh spot in Friday's lineup, a chance for the struggling right fielder to "refresh" after an 0-for-19 hitless streak. The move paid off, as Polanco drove in the Pirates' first run with a single that bounced off Lucas Duda's glove and into right field.
"That was definitely an error," Duda said. "That's a play I should make 10 out of 10 times."
Synder-so-so: Making his third big league start, Syndergaard came out firing, striking out the first four batters he faced and retiring the first five. But Polanco's RBI single sparked a two-run, two-out rally. Syndergaard recovered to retire eight Pirates in a row before an actual error aided a two-run rally against him in the sixth. Only three of the four runs against Syndergaard were earned, resulting in -- technically speaking -- his second consecutive quality start. More >
Kang show: Pirates shortstop Jung Ho Kang has answered any questions the Pirates may have had about his bat, batting .310 a quarter of the way through his first season in the Majors.
In the sixth inning, he created a run almost entirely with his legs. Kang singled home Andrew McCutchen, took second on an errant pickoff throw, took advantage of a lapse in the Mets infield defense to steal third, and safely -- albeit awkwardly -- slid home on a sacrifice fly by Pedro Alvarez.
"It shows that he's still got some things he can work on," Hurdle said of the slide. "The tour of the bases was impressive. ... I'm sure he'll get to see that a couple times tomorrow from the guys and the baserunning coach." More >
"We just played a good game. We played a game that I think we've played a handful of times before and we need to play more of. We got results for it." -- Cole
"He brought energy. He brought focus to the game. It was a good shot in the arm for us." -- Hurdle
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Cole has gone 10-2 with a 2.40 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 14 starts dating back to Sept. 7. He's 10-2 with a 2.77 ERA over his last 17 starts at PNC Park.
Former Mets closer Bobby Parnell pitched a scoreless inning Friday for Class A Advanced St. Lucie at Dunedin. He walked one and struck out one, throwing 15 pitches.
WHAT'S NEXT Mets:Matt Harvey will take a 16-inning scoreless streak into Saturday's 4:05 p.m. ET game against the Pirates at PNC Park, though he doesn't have a win to show for it. The Mets have lost two of the last three games that Harvey has started, despite his 1.29 ERA in those outings.
Pirates: Right-hander A.J. Burnett will look to continue his outstanding start to the season as he takes the mound for the Pirates on Saturday. After a lack of run support left him 0-1 with a 1.45 ERA through his first five starts, Burnett has won each of his last three outings.