Thor ready to strike hammer in big game after tune-up

Thor ready to strike hammer in big game after tune-up

MIAMI -- When Noah Syndergaard next climbs atop a Major League mound, there is a good chance he will be starting the Mets' most important game of the season. Either the Mets will need Syndergaard to pitch them into the postseason this Sunday in Philadelphia, or they will need him to win the National League Wild Card game.

In either case, Syndergaard relishes the challenge.

"I'm always looking forward to the big games," Syndergaard said on Tuesday, after striking out eight batters in six innings of a 12-1 win over the Marlins. "Great atmosphere, a lot of pressure, I feel like I thrive in those kinds of scenarios."

Wild Card standings

Certainly Syndergaard did last October, shining in all three of the Mets' postseason series. If he wasn't already, Syndergaard became a household name for his electric relief inning in NL Division Series Game 5 in Los Angeles. Three weeks later, he scored the Mets' only World Series win against the Royals.

So Syndergaard not only welcomes the challenge that awaits him, but he understands the difficulty of it. That's why Tuesday's tune-up was so important to him. After missing his last start due to a case of strep throat, Syndergaard returned to the mound at something close to full strength. He allowed just five hits and a run to the Marlins, and he did not walk a batter. Syndergaard rapped out multiple hits at the plate. When Syndergaard departed, the Mets held a 4-1 lead, more confident than ever in their ace.

"He didn't seem fatigued," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He gave us what we had to have, and that was pitching deep into the game. He pitched like we know he can."

It's a scene the Mets need to see again and again in the coming weeks. Though there is a chance Syndergaard throws a tune-up inning in the Mets' final regular-season game on Sunday even if they've already clinched, his next start for all intents and purposes should come in a win-or-go-home game. Either the Mets clinch early, allowing them to save Syndergaard for the Wild Card game, or their inability to shake the Cardinals and Giants will force them to use Syndergaard as a springboard into the postseason.

Now healthy, Syndergaard cannot wait.

"You've just got to go out there and do your job," Syndergaard said. "It's a little bit of a different setting and atmosphere, but it's still the same game."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.