CHICAGO - Noah Syndergaard stood atop the pitcher's mound, his imposing 6-6 frame topped by a mop of long blonde hair that stuck out beneath his cap.
His glove featured his nickname Thor stitched across the front in script.
Soon, 99 mph fastballs would come blazing out of his right hand, followed by curveballs that tested the laws of physics.
He was everything the Mets had hoped he would be, though it wouldn't be enough to spare them from a 6-1 defeat to the Cubs in Syndergaard's big- league debut.
"It's something I'm going to cherish for the rest of my life," Syndergaard said.
The prospect's arrival on a chilly night at Wrigley Field signified something much larger than the outcome of one game. He became the latest example of the Mets' best hopes for a new era of prosperity based on a talented stable of arms.
In that regard, Syndergaard proved that he belonged, even though his debut ended in a loss.
In 51/3 innings, he allowed three runs and six hits. He walked four -- one intentionally but struck out six.
After allowing an RBI double to Starlin Castro and a two-run homer to Chris Coghlan, Syndergaard departed with the Mets behind 3-0 in the sixth. His father, Brad, gave him a standing ovation.
"He came up here bound and determined to show everybody he belongs here," manager Terry Collins said. "And I think he did that."
Syndergaard's undoing came mostly because of shaky defense and an offense that failed to deliver a single run of support.
Kris Bryant, the Cubs' own highly-touted slugger, collected two hits off Syndergaard, including a triple off the bricks and ivy in rightfield. But one of those hits altered the course of Syndergaard's outing.
In the third, Bryant hit a routine grounder to third. Daniel Murphy fielded it, made a lazy throw, and allowed Bryant to reach first. It rattled Syndergaard, who walked the next two batters before getting Jorge Soler to fly out.
The Cubs did not score but the damage was done. Syndergaard needed 18 extra pitches to get out of the inning.
"I didn't make the play, and it cost him some pitches," Murphy said. "I was pretty frustrated."
Curtis Granderson added another moment of brain freeze in the fourth, killing a potential rally when he inexplicably tried advancing from first to third on Murphy's single. He was thrown out easily.
The Mets managed just five hits and scored their only run in the eighth. In 10 games in May, they have scored three or fewer runs seven times.
No pitcher could have overcome those deficiencies on his own. Nevertheless, Syndergaard maintained his composure, tossing five scoreless innings until hitting a wall in the sixth.
"I didn't really notice any nerves," batterymate Kevin Plawecki said.
Before the game, veteran Michael Cuddyer implored the rookie to take mental snapshots of his debut, an event that would happen only once. The pitcher wasted little time.
At 7:15 p.m., Syndergaard threw his first pitch, a 97 mph fastball that missed the strike zone. A few moments later, he got his first strikeout. When Dexter Fowler failed to check his swing on a curveball in the dirt, Syndergaard had his first image, to go along with the historic scoreboard and a dugout filled with big-league teammates.
After the first inning, his nervousness disappeared. It became just another game.
"The confidence that I can take away from this game." he said, "is that I can pitch at this level and have some pretty good success."
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