Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Thor's Thunder a Reason to Believe

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Thor's Thunder a Reason to Believe

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- The Mets looked up and found themselves in extra innings against the Nationals Tuesday night, rightfully asking how they could've blown up what should've been an automatic ninth and a sanity-preserving 3-1 win against a National League powerhouse. This could've done serious damage to the Mets, and not just in the wild- card standings.

But that was before T.J. Rivera saved them with a solo HR off Mark Melancon -- the first of his career -- to nail down a 4-3 win. So, for now, you can gloss over Jose Reyes' near-catastrophic throwing error that led to the Nationals tying the game in the ninth, along with Jeurys Familia's inability to shut down a rally that wasn't entirely his fault.

We'll forgive the Mets for all that. They have a chance to take this critical series against the Nats later today, after which comes the gift from the schedule-maker -- those final 16 games against the Twins, Braves, Marlins and Phillies.

At this point it's hard to imagine the Mets not cashing in against a collection of the majors' worst clubs. There's too many plausible paths to the postseason, including the most obvious one - Noah Syndergaard.

The right-hander was slapped with a no-decision on Tuesday, but otherwise proved just how dominant he can be on his best nights. And, trust us, this might've been his finest performance of 2016.

Syndergaard allowed just one run over seven innings, only four hits and 10 thunderous strikeouts. Even the recitation of these numbers don't do justice to how thoroughly he breezed through the Nationals' lineup -- or as Terry Collins so aptly put it, "Noah went out there and gave us what we needed."

Remember: the Nats have been beasts by every definition this summer, not only running away from the Mets in the East, but boasting the NL's No. 2 pitching staff and No. 2 offense since the All-Star break. The Mets arrived in Washington hoping to get in the Nationals' heads, if only to drop a hint or two about the postseason that's just around the corner.

Instead, Rafael Montero got crushed in his first 20 pitches Monday night and the Mets were on their way to an 8-1 public whipping. That's why the Mets turned a hopeful gaze towards Syndergaard 24 hours later. Steady us, was the unspoken plea. It's the surcharge of being an ace.

Syndergaard gets it, he always has, which says plenty about a 24- year-old in his first full season in the big leagues. No one could've blamed Syndergaard for panicking, even just a little, as the Mets' rotation evaporated little by little over the course of the 2016 season.

Matt Harvey ended on the DL with thoracic outlet syndrome. Zack Wheeler didn't recover from Tommy John surgery. Steven Matz's shoulder tightened. Jacob deGrom developed a bad forearm. Only Bartolo Colon remained uninjured but there's never been a question who represents the Mets' last line of defense. …

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