NEW YORK (AP) — Noah Syndergaard needed to do more than give the New York Mets a decent start. He needed to save their season.
And after a couple shaky innings, the 23-year-old rookie delivered.
Syndergaard held off the Kansas City Royals until the Mets' offense got going, and New York cut its World Series deficit to 2-1 with a 9-3 victory Friday night.
While his slightly more seasoned teammates Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom wore down in the first two games in Kansas City, Syndergaard did the opposite. He was able to adjust against the persistent Royals and found his rhythm.
He made his big league debut in mid-May, part of the heralded kiddie corps of hard-throwing starting pitchers counted on by the Mets to turn around a team seeking its first Series title since 1986. He went 9-7 and earned a starting slot in the team's first postseason since 2006.
While he lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 2, he pitched a key scoreless seventh inning in relief of deGrom in Game 5 of the Division Series, his first time out of the bullpen since 2012 in Class A ball.
Then he beat the Cubs in the NL Championship Series, sending the Mets to Chicago with a 2-0 lead in a series they would sweep.
"When we won in Chicago, we sat on the plane and his name was mentioned to open up the World Series," Mets manager Terry Collins said this week. "That's how well we think he's pitching. We've got great confidence in him."
Syndergaard allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings with six strikeouts and two walks. While the pesky Royals swung and missed only three pitches against deGrom in Game 2, Syndergaard induced more than a dozen.
Despite throwing at up to 100 mph, the emerging ace with the flowing blond hair struggled through the first two innings. Ben Zobrist doubled on a hop off the center-field wall in the first and came around on an infield hit and Eric Hosmer's sacrifice fly.
Given a 2-1 lead on David Wright's homer, Syndergaard quickly gave it up in a four-hit second that included Alex Rios' RBI single and Travis d'Arnaud's run-scoring passed ball. With a runner on second, he got Zobrist to fly to center, starting a streak of 12 consecutive outs.
Nursing a 5-3 advantage in the sixth, he suddenly lost command and loaded the bases with two outs on an infield hit and a pair of walks. Collins left him in and would have been second-guessed endlessly if the decision backfired, but on his 104th and final pitch, Syndergaard got Alex Rios to ground to shortstop.
"I think he's come a long way," Collins said before this start. "As you'd like to go to that crusty, veteran guy who's been here, who's done it, to help bail you out of the hole you're in, we're not asking that. We're asking this kid to go out and pitch his game, and his stuff should play."