Lucas Duda. While Duda seems to be picking the right time to start getting back to his old self again, the offensive fireworks took a back seat on Friday night to the pitching of Noah Syndergaard.
Syndergaard's season has gone more or less like most Rookie Pitchers. He's been somewhat inconsistent at times, he's been victimized by one or two bad pitches other times, and of course he's had moments where he's looked really, really good.
Last night was one such night where he looked really good, and like Duda this happens to be coming at the right time. I know that the business of skipping starts and moving people around in the rotation is under some criticism but it seems to have benefited nobody better than Noah Syndergaard. After skipping a start a few weeks ago, Syndergaard came back and dominated Atlanta, lost to the Yankees based on two pitches in bad spots and some other bad luck, and now this game against Cincinnati, where he basically beat them singlehandedly.*
Syndergaard's stuff has never been in doubt, because when he's on his game his stuff can take care of everything. But it's a matter of learning stamina and durability and consistency more than anything else. It's not so much a game-to-game thing because he can throw 8 innings and 110+ pitches without much difficulty. It's stretching that out to a season's worth of games (and maybe more than that) that is the concern. Come August, Syndergaard began to fizzle out with a number of lesser efforts where he was throwing too many pitches too early in games and teams were starting to hit him. But maybe he's now beginning to get back to where he was too. Certainly, he's proven himself worthy of being in a rotation in October; if he can keep this little string going and avoid those bad luck pitches then everything should be just delightful.
Meanwhile, yes, he still had to get through this game, and he helped his own cause with an RBI single in the 2nd before the Dudaworks went off, and as the Mets built their lead, Syndergaard got tougher, retiring 16 Reds in a row before allowing a 2-out Home Run to Brennan Boesch in the 8th inning. Then of course, we had to sit through the awful part of the Mets bullpen that needed 4 pitchers to get the last 4 outs of the game and extended things more than they needed to be extended. These pitchers don't need the further humiliation of having their names bandied about on snarky, second-rate blogs so I won't discuss them further.
So instead of a 12-0 whitewashing the Mets had to settle for a 12-5 whitewashing and that, combined with the Nationals continuing to trip over their own feet literally and figuratively, the Mets Magic Number is now 1 and even if the unthinkable happens and they lose their remaining 8 games, the worst thing that could happen is they end up in a tie. I have a feeling this probably won't happen, not so much because I think the Mets won't lose 8 in a row, but because I'm quite certain Washington can't win 9 in a row. Regardless, the Mets are now one thin game away from winning their Division, which is certainly more than I'd predicted for them this season. After everything the Mets and their fans have had to endure over the last 9 seasons, it's going to be quite a party.
*I say Singlehandedly because that's basically what he did. The Mets didn't need to score 12 runs in support of him. 2 would have sufficed. With a 1-2 run lead he certainly pitches differently to Boesch in the 8th inning and with a 1-2 run lead even if Boesch does hit a Home Run anyway, Collins probably brings in Clippard and Familia for the remainder of the game instead of the dregs of the bullpen.