Noah Syndergaard appropriately brushed aside the initial question of how nervous he was for his first Citi Field big-league start Sunday.
The rookie righthander had a much more pressing concern. In the sixth inning, his 97-mph fastball had hit Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez on the left side of his helmet, sending the batter sprawling in a chilling scene.
Gomez apparently escaped serious injury, suffering a facial contusion, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which said he had a welt on his left cheek but was smiling and talking afterward. The Associated Press said the former Met had passed all the protocols indicating that he did not have a concussion.
But none of that was known until well after the Mets' 5-1 victory, and Syndergaard wanted to make sure he had his priorities in order.
"I just want to start by saying I hope Gomez is OK," said Syndergaard, who allowed one run and three hits and struck out five with one walk to earn his first major-league victory.
He said he planned to contact Gomez. "I hope he doesn't miss any playing time. I just tried to go [inside] on the pitch, lost control of it. It's never really happened to me before," Syndergaard said of hitting a batter in the head, "so it kind of rattled me a little bit. It made me a little bit more timid to go inside to hitters."
While Gomez was being tended to by the trainers, Terry Collins came out to check on his pitcher.
"The real character was after he hit Gomez," Collins said. "Is he going to be able to settle down? Is he going to be able to rein himself in? And he did. As upset as he was when I walked out to the mound, he reined himself in and got out of the inning. I was really impressed."
After hitting Gomez, Syndergaard struck out Khris Davis. "He bore down and got him," Collins said. "I was impressed by that, 'cause you could tell he was shook up. That's dangerous, especially as hard as he throws."
Ryan Braun then drove in the Brewers' only run on a single to right. Syndergaard retired Adam Lind on a flyout and Aramis Ramirez on a lineout to end the inning and his eventful day on the mound.
Syndergaard took a 5-0 lead into the sixth as the Mets' offense helped him right from the start. Curtis Granderson hit a leadoff homer in the first inning, Lucas Duda doubled in a run in the third and the Mets scored three more in the fourth on an RBI single by Eric Campbell and a two-run single by Michael Cuddyer.
Syndergaard did not allow a hit until Lind's two-out single in the fourth inning. Luis Sardinas led off the sixth with a single before Gomez's at-bat, and catcher Johnny Monell said the plan was to try to get Gomez to hit into a double play.
"It's definitely scary. Noah's in the mid-to-high-90s," Monell said. "Just one pitch got away from him. We tried to set up inside. After we got ball one outside, we tried to go back inside to get a ground-ball double play. He just got a little too quick and opened up and missed up and in. It's unfortunate it got Gomez."
Syndergaard said he will not carry the frightening moment of hitting someone in the head into his next start. "It's just part of the game," he said. "You're going to hit hitters. You just have to be able to have a short memory and forget about it and move on to the next pitch."