Anthony Rieber has been at Newsday since Aug. 31, 1998 and in his current position since 2004. Show More
If Dillon Gee hadn't strained his groin May 3, Noah Syndergaard would have been pitching Sunday at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, Washington, instead of Citi Field in Flushing.
If not for the fickle finger (or groin) of fate, Syndergaard would have been toiling for Triple-A Las Vegas against the Tacoma Rainiers in front of about 6,000 people.
It's also doubtful that Citi Field would have had the same energy for a Gee start as it did for Syndergaard's amazingly successful home debut in a 5-1 Mets win over the Brewers in front of 32,422.
The 22-year-old righthander with the linebacker's physique and No. 1 starter's stuff held Milwaukee to one run, three hits and one walk in six innings to pick up his first win in his second big-league outing.
With his blond locks flowing under his blue Mets cap, Syndergaard was everything he was touted to be.
"He was outstanding," manager Terry Collins said.
The day started with a Twitter debate about whether Sunday should have been called "Synday" or "Thorsday" ("Thor" is Syndergaard's nickname).
For the record, Syndergaard said he prefers "Thorsday."
"It was really cool," he said, "to look up in the stands and see people dressed up as 'Thor.' "
Syndergaard took the mound a little after 1 p.m. with a handheld cameraman trailing him. Then he went right after the Brewers, with a 96-mph fastball to Carlos Gomez his first home pitch. It was fouled back.
Syndergaard featured a crackling fastball in the high 90s, a wicked curve at about 80 and a so-so changeup in the high 80s. He showed more command and control than he had in his first start against the Cubs at Wrigley Field last Tuesday, when he threw five scoreless innings before allowing three runs in the sixth in a 6-1 defeat.
On Sunday, Syndergaard struck out three of the first four batters and didn't give up a hit until Adam Lind lined a two-out single to right in the fourth on a changeup.
The Mets, who scored 14 runs Saturday night to end a five-game skid, gave Syndergaard a 5-0 lead after four innings.
He faced his biggest test in the sixth after giving up a single to left to Luis Sardinas and hitting Gomez in the helmet with a 97-mph fastball. Syndergaard had to wait on the mound as Gomez got up and was tended to by the Brewers' trainer before leaving the game for a pinch runner.
Would the scary sight of hitting Gomez upset the youngster? Collins thought it might and visited the mound. Syndergaard admitted it did.
"It's never really happened to me before," he said. "It rattled me a little bit."
Said Collins: "I said, 'The biggest out of the game is the next guy.' He said, 'I'll get him.' "
Syndergaard struck out Khris Davis on a 97-mph fastball, gave up an RBI single to Ryan Braun and retired Lind and Aramis Ramirez on fly balls to end the inning and his outing with a 5-1 lead.
Three innings later, Syndergaard had his first big-league win.
Surely he had a lot of people to thank along the way: his family, his coaches and managers, his teammates.
And poor Dillon Gee, without whom none of this would have been possible, and who might never get his starting job back.
"I'd love to stay," Syndergaard said. "Nobody wants to be pitching in Triple-A."
Said Collins: "If we think Noah Syndergaard is the best option in that spot, he'll stay, I would guess. We're trying to win."