NEW YORK -- Noah Syndergaard took a perfect game into the seventh inning Tuesday at Citi Field, continuing his emergence as one of the game's brightest young pitchers in a 4-0 win over the Padres. Combined with a Nationals loss, the win moved the Mets within a game of first place for the first time since June 20.
Dominant from the start, Syndergaard struck out six of the first 13 batters he faced, keeping the basepaths clean until Will Venable and Yangervis Solarte led off the seventh with consecutive singles. The rookie improved to 5-1 with a 1.46 ERA in seven starts at Citi Field, beating a Padres team that handed him his worst loss of the season earlier this year in San Diego.
"I don't think any of us could have predicted the rise to where he's at this fast," Mets manager Terry Collins said of Syndergaard, who struck out nine. "He was outstanding."
The Mets received all the offense they would need from first baseman Lucas Duda, who blasted a two-run homer off James Shields in the first inning. Otherwise brilliant, Shields retired 11 straight at one point and pitched into the eighth. Curtis Granderson doubled the Mets' margin with a two-run homer off Shawn Kelley in the eighth, the first of those two runs charged to Shields.
"I'm feeling a bit more comfortable," Duda said. "But Noah was outstanding. That was a great job by him and a great overall team win."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Noah dominant: When Yonder Alonso singled through the right side to open the eighth, it marked the second consecutive inning in which Syndergaard allowed a leadoff hit. It also hardly seemed to faze him. Syndergaard popped up Derek Norris and struck out the next two batters he faced, whiffing Alexi Amarista on a 97-mph fastball to cap the strongest outing of his young career.
"It was kind of in the back of my head from when the game started," Syndergaard said of his perfect game bid. "You can't pay too much attention to what's happening, you've just got to get back on the mound and continue to make quality pitches." More >
Shields solid: On any other night, San Diego's ace would have been the one dealing. Normally a fly-ball pitcher, the righty induced eight groundouts -- including two double plays -- and struck out four. He didn't walk a batter for just the second time this season. Padres interim manager Pat Murphy let Shields start the eighth inning hoping his ace could earn a complete game.
"The idea was to try to get him through that inning and help him realize what a great effort it was, even if we didn't come back and win," Murphy said.
Duda goes deep: It helped that Syndergaard pitched all but one inning with a multiple-run lead. With two outs in the first, Duda hit a two-run homer to center field that Statcast™ measured at 456 feet, besting his own mark for the longest of the year by a Met. It was also Duda's third home run in his last three games.
"It was a front-door two-seam [fastball] and it might have been on the black," Shields said. "That's a good pitch, man. He did a good job pulling his hands inside that ball. Nothing I can do about it."
Ven-able: The subject of trade rumors targeting the Mets as a possible landing spot, Venable started in center field and hit leadoff for the Padres. He hit two line drives up the middle, one caught by Syndergaard, and another to start the 7th that shot into center for San Diego's first hit. That ended a streak of 18 consecutive batters set down by Syndergaard to start the game.
"He was really consistent, and that's why he was getting the low pitch," Venable said. "He was able to work off that." More >
"As far as I'm concerned, I think I'm going to be here for a while. That's why I signed up to be a Padre, not only to win now, but to win in the next four years." -- Shields, on trade rumors
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Syndergaard's nine strikeouts give him 91 for the season. Only Dwight Gooden (107), Nolan Ryan (103) and Matt Harvey (102) struck out more in their first 14 career starts.
The Padres avoided falling victim to the first perfect game in their history. No San Diego pitcher has ever thrown one, either.
WHAT'S NEXT Padres: Right-hander Tyson Ross takes a 6-8 record and 3.45 ERA into what could be his final start in a Padres uniform, a 7:10 p.m. ET tilt against New York. Ross is rumored to be on the trading block after 2 1/2 seasons in San Diego.
Mets: Wildly inconsistent throughout this season, Bartolo Colon will look to string together consecutive quality starts when he takes the mound for a 7:10 p.m. ET game Tuesday against the Padres. Colon delivered his best start of the season last time out, holding the Dodgers to one run in eight innings of a loss to Clayton Kershaw.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. Joe Trezza is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.