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The Supporting Cast

Greg and I divvy up recap duties by series — most often one series at a time, sometimes two or three. Usually we start by comparing schedules and subtracting evenings on which the world will interfere with baseball-centric life. Sometimes we put our hands up for a game because we’ll be in attendance.

And sometimes there are other factors. Before the Nats series, Greg raised his hand for Tuesday because he hadn’t chronicled “a Synderstaart” since our unrequested rematch with Kansas City.

Yes, Noah Syndergaard [1] being on the mound is must-see TV and a happy-to-recap calendar item.

But not even Syndergaard can stand alone. He was phenomenal Sunday afternoon — 11 Ks, six singles, no walks, no earned runs — but perhaps the most impressive aspect of his performance was that he didn’t arrive with his usual arsenal. He wound up playing peekaboo with his pitches, his command coming and going in a perplexing manner. In the early innings the fastball was refusing to stick to the corners and the slider was off, so Syndergaard and Rene Rivera [2] turned to improv, leaning on the curve and the change-up and coaxing the other two pitches along. That plan wouldn’t have succeeded last summer, but after a rough patch Syndergaard hit fast-forward on his 2015 pitching lessons, looking like a different pitcher in September and October. Today, the result of the Syndergaard-Rivera collaboration was a line most starters would kill to leave the park with [3].

Rivera did more than play co-strategist: in the seventh, he corralled a fastball in the dirt and gunned down Alex Presley [4] on an ill-advised break for second with runners on first and third and no one out. Gifted an out, Syndergaard struck out Ramon Flores, got a ground ball from Aaron Hill and was home-free. Also chipping in was Syndergaard’s Upper East Side roommate Michael Conforto [5], whose first-inning home run extinguished a brief Brewer lead, and Asdrubal Cabrera [6], who lined a flat Chase Anderson [7] curve over Hill’s head for the go-ahead run and a spot of insurance in the fourth.

The fly in the ointment? Not to be too Metsian, but it wasn’t that hard to spot: you’ll find a chronicle of all the scoring two sentences above. The Mets scored 11 runs in sweeping the Brewers, after scoring four in dropping two out of three to the Nats, nine in getting swept by the Rockies (and in Coors Field no less), 10 in four games split with the Dodgers, and 13 in a four-game split with the Padres. You have to go back one more series — the three-gamer against the wretched Braves — to find the last time the Mets averaged four runs a game.

That’s an unlikely formula for success against the Nats, whom the Mets will probably take on without Lucas Duda [8], leaving them deprived of Duda and Travis d’Arnaud [9] and trying to figure out how to manage David Wright [10]‘s woes. As for Syndergaard, he’s next scheduled to ply his trade on Saturday against the Dodgers. Must-see TV, of course — but what kind of performances will it follow?