VIERA, Fla. - Daisuke Matsuzaka and Noah Syndergaard both did nothing wrong in their quests to win the Mets' fifth-starter job Thursday.
But because the phenom Syndergaard is a long shot who most likely will start the season with Triple-A Las Vegas, Matsuzaka holding serve means he is inching closer to earning the position.
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Matsuzaka started and allowed one run in 32/3 innings in the Mets' 7-5 victory over the Nationals at Space Coast Stadium.
Syndergaard came in to start the fifth inning and struck out four of the first five batters he faced. He left with two runners on and two outs in the eighth and watched Jacob deGrom give up a three-run homer to Brock Peterson, which made Syndergaard's final line (3 2/3 innings, two hits, three earned runs, two walks, five strikeouts) look worse than it was.
"They were very good," Collins said. "Both of them pitched very, very well. Dice-K, I thought his last two innings were outstanding."
Matsuzaka allowed three hits, walked none and struck out four. His exhibition ERA is 3.52. "Overall, I think it was a very good outing," he said through a translator. "I was consistent out there, so that was the most important thing. Of course, I could have gone a little deeper into the game, but that's something that will come."
The other candidates for the fifth-starter job are Long Beach product John Lannan and Jenrry Mejia. But the Mets are looking at Lannan as a potential second lefthanded reliever and Mejia is likely ticketed to join Syndergaard in the Triple-A Las Vegas rotation.
"I'm very pleased with the way I performed today," said Syndergaard, who has a 5.19 ERA in three outings. "I went out there and actually pitched this time. I was able to locate my fastball pretty well, and even my two-seam was the best it's been all spring. And then I was able to mix in a lot of pretty good changeups as well."
Viva Las Vegas
Bartolo Colon and Mejia will start the exhibition games in Las Vegas against the Cubs Saturday and Sunday. Dillon Gee and Jonathon Niese will pitch in Florida as the Mets split their squads for two days. Among the players leaving Saturday for Las Vegas -- home of the Mets' Triple-A affiliate -- are David Wright and Curtis Granderson. Collins will manage the team in Las Vegas while bench coach Bob Geren runs things in Florida.