In a haughtier season, we might file away Friday night’s 4-2 victory over the Nationals  as a nice, boring win. We’re not in a haughty season, however, so let’s not too hastily dismiss the delights of dullness. Besides, how low-key can any game started by Noah Syndergaard  come off as? Noah, even when playing it cool, carries a Reggie Jackson-style “magnitude of me” to the mound. You can’t miss him when he’s in town. The eye finds him first, the same way you spot the observation towers overlooking what remains of the New York State Pavilion  as you drive along the Grand Central.
Whereas Jacob deGrom has been our Unisphere this year — he’s the world to us — Noah has been mostly been something to behold in theory. A sprained index finger sidelined him for a start, then two, then, because every Met injury heals only when it’s damn good and ready, seven weeks. Theory begat Thor and, suddenly, the Mets had two top-notch starters again. The Mets were a few games above .500 when Noah disappeared into the cornfield on May 25. Is it possible that missing a consensus preseason Cy Young candidate could have something to do with a team completely falling apart in June?
It wasn’t like they weren’t already decomposing from the middle of April onward, but lacking Syndergaard couldn’t help but gape the growing void. We have him back and we are better off for it. Noah threw five sharp innings. Not suffocating — the Nats kept putting their first batter on base — but unquestionably professional. Yes, that’s the word for what the Mets were Friday night. Professional. Getting hitters out while in the field, pushing runs across while at bat, very little exploding in their faces no matter who the Nationals sent to torment them. Daniel Murphy’s not moving so well. Bryce Harper isn’t interested in legging out grounders. Tanner Roark hasn’t much roar. We’re having a terrible year, but they’re relentlessly disappointing. For one game we were bound to float by them.
As with any visit to the old World’s Fair site, you could get a sense of what used to draw people to Flushing and why people made such a fuss. Syndergaard (a five-game winner — just like deGrom!) limiting the opposition to a single run, or as many as he himself drove in; Lugo and Gsellman competently carrying the load to the end of the line; the top of the order efficiently generating three runs in the first; Rosario burning up the basepaths in the thrilling fashion the tout sheets said he would…these were the 2018 Mets from when the 2018 Mets were a certifiable attraction rather than the remnants of something rusting embarrassingly alongside the parkway.
Too bad you can’t go see them like that all the time.