NEW YORK -- Given how impressive Jacob deGrom has been, and the weekly soap opera surrounding Matt Harvey, and the fact that Steven Matz will soon enter the building, Noah Syndergaard -- not so long ago the center of attention, an uber-prospect worth watching -- has recently shifted into the shadows.
Not Friday. On a night that saw the Mets eke out two runs on just two hits, stealing a 2-1 win from the Reds at Citi Field on a bases-loaded walk, Syndergaard starred in his best outing as a pro. His eight innings were a career high, he walked no one for the first time in four starts and he did it all on 89 pitches.
Had it not been for Mets manager Terry Collins' desire to play things safe in a one-run game, sending his nigh-untouchable closer out for the ninth, Syndergaard might have even emerged with his first complete game.
"You couldn't have told me we had a 22-year-old kid out there today," Collins said. "He pitched an outstanding game."
Only once did Syndergaard crack for a run, on a Chris Dominguez RBI groundout in the second. In his ninth career start, the rookie retired 10 straight from the third through sixth innings, throwing first-pitch strikes to nine of them. One of his few real bits of trouble surfaced in the eighth, when Dominguez hit a leadoff single and Dilson Herrera bobbled a routine double-play ball, allowing the potential tying run to move into scoring position with one out.
Syndergaard responded with six straight fastballs -- all either 97 or 98 mph -- to induce a groundout and an inning-ending popup.
"I just had to bear down, get back on the mound, and trust my defense 110 percent to make plays behind me," Syndergaard said. "I just got back on the mound and forgot about it."
The rookie also admitted that he also "wanted to get out there pretty badly" in the ninth, with only the 89 pitches to his name. But he did not vocalize that to Collins, who had two motivations for holding back the right-hander: He wanted to shave an inning off Syndergaard's carefully scrutinized season total, and -- more importantly -- wanted to hand the reins of a one-run game to closer Jeurys Familia, with the heart of Cincinnati's lineup set to bat.
Familia went 1-2-3 in the ninth, locking down Syndergaard's third career win.
"That's an exciting presence in a starting rotation there, just from a size and velocity perspective," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "More impressive than anything was how he attacked the strike zone. He went after our lineup with good, located quality fastballs and breaking balls. He threw enough offspeed stuff to keep us off balance, and had to contend with 96-98 mph. He pitched a real good ballgame."
Price's team will see two more impressive pitchers this weekend in Harvey and Matz, one of them established and one making his debut. Combine them with Syndergaard and three others, and the Mets feel they have the makings of a six-man rotation that -- as on Friday -- can pick up their flagging offense more often than not.
"My ultimate goal is to be able to pitch in October," Syndergaard said, explaining why he approves of the six-man cycle. "And part of November as well."