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The Noah Kid in Town

They didn’t much hype The First Home Start In The New York Mets Career Of Noah Syndergaard [1], did they? Just as well. When they hype that sort of thing, it seems to implode. They hyped Matt Harvey [2]’s Citi Field debut in 2012 and it was one of the worst outings he’s ever thrown [3]. They hyped Zack Wheeler [4]’s Citi Field debut in 2013 and that Sunday afternoon [5] ended with Anthony Recker [6] pitching.

On the other hand, over these past four seasons, the Mets called up Collin McHugh [7], Jacob deGrom [8], Rafael Montero [9] and Noah Syndergaard and when they were needed to pitch in Flushing, they were more or less told, “Have at it.” There was no special t-shirt deal, no cringey slogan, no sound of Lou Gramm narrating that this here feels like the first time [10].

Syndergaard (like Harvey and Wheeler) had gotten the hard part out of the way on the road [11], but still, pitching in front of your prospective fans is a distinction unto itself. I’d add “…in New York,” but I don’t really believe that. If you’re pitching in Times Square, c. 1975, that would be an urban challenge. Pitching in the aspirationally adorable fauxback ballpark where as many people seem to come to chow down as they do to root on doesn’t strike me as inflicting an extra layer of stress. The “New York fans” concept, at least as it applies to Citi Field, is a self-flattering myth. Don’t be fooled by the oddball rabid caller to sports talk radio. Having now attended 187 post-Shea home games since 2009, I will testify that relatively few who pay their way in are out for blood. At our worst, we’re morosely disengaged. At our best, we’re surprisingly cheerful.

Must be the food that settles our nerves.

Today we welcomed Syndergaard warmly. Those who understood that this was our first official up-close look were enthusiastic. Those who didn’t know what was going on could amuse themselves in gourmet hamburger lines. It left more room for the rest of us to feast our eyes on the Noah kid in town.

Impressions from the eighth row of Section 519: Syndergaard — I’m going to resist this Thor thing for now — looks as much like a starting pitcher as any I’ve seen in recent years, and, as noted above, we’ve seen quite a few begin to make a mark for themselves. He looks like the kind of pitcher I’d hate for the Mets to face. He looks like he knows what he’s doing out there, which surprises me a little, what with the intermittent bulletins about his “maturity” issues (a.k.a. he tweeted too much [12]). I don’t know how stern his stuff is for 22, but there was no questioning his jib’s cut in his second major league start.

The Brewers are presently at the bottom of the N.L. Central barrel, but a lineup with Ryan Braun [13], Aramis Ramirez [14] and Carlos Gomez [15] is test enough, and Syndergaard acquitted himself beautifully for six innings. The sixth, of course, was the inning to beware. Not only might have his gas gauge begun to point to dangerously low, but he had to recover from the sight of Gomez on the ground, a victim of one of the rookie’s fastballs that ran far too up and a little too in.

If a New York ballpark was the cauldron of hostility lazy narratives make it out to be, then I doubt the crowd would have applauded three different times in support of Carlos’s well-being: once when we saw bodily movement, once he sat up, once when he walked off the field. Gomez’s Met pedigree isn’t so deep that we wouldn’t have been decent about his condition without it. Fortunately, Carlos reported being all right [16], and when we got back to the game, a contrite Noah [17] resumed his assignment.

Milwaukee had two on with nobody out after the scary HBP. Syndergaard struck out the next batter, Khris Davis [18]. Braun nicked him for a RBI single to right, but he took care of the capable Adam Lind [19] and then Ramirez, allowing Noah to exit to knowing applause. He was up, 5-1, and on a glide path toward his first major league and Citi Field win.

The reflexive fears that the Mets wouldn’t “save some of that” for Sunday after the delightful 14-run outburst of Saturday night [20] proved unfounded. They tallied nine fewer times, but more than enough was provided for one of the most promising young pitchers in baseball to defeat the one of the worst teams in the sport. Nobody in our lineup is hitting .300 and few are topping .250, but at least for the time being, the Mets have returned to the mode where they’re getting done what must be done. My buddy Joe and I agreed that this was a game that cried out to be broken decisively open, but once Syndergaard was through six, we and our 32,000 friends could relax and enjoy…despite the disturbing omission of Bobby Darin’s “Sunday In New York [21],” a Shea/Citi Sunday staple [22] for the previous 14 seasons, from the PA menu. Small thing, but I loved hearing it, especially on those baseball Sundays when it was warm like it was today and the Mets were winning like they were today.

Missing musical cue notwithstanding, no complaints on this Sunday in New York, when Noah Syndergaard made a debut that was more auspicious than conspicuous. It wasn’t a laugher, but it was definitely a smiler [23].

Life’s a ball, let it fall in your lap.