WASHINGTON — As his teammates grinded through an unfortunate quirk of the schedule — a night game in one city followed by a day game in another, with a train ride and short night of sleep in between — Noah Syndergaard took full advantage of the perks of being the next day’s starting pitcher.
He traveled early Sunday from Philadelphia to the nation’s capital. He watched on TV from the hotel bar as the Mets lost to the Phillies. He got a full night’s rest ahead of a Labor Day matinee.
And then he woke up Monday and dominated the Nationals in a 7-3 Mets victory.
In seven scoreless innings, Syndergaard allowed three hits, struck out 10 and walked none — the eighth time in his career he reached double-digit strikeouts and didn’t walk anybody. Only Tom Seaver (10) has more such games in Mets history.
Consider that a successful rebound from Syndergaard’s horrendous outing against the Cubs last week, when he gave up 10 runs in three innings.
“When you have a start like that, those five or four days in between are very long,” he said. “I just wanted to get out there and work, work, work to make sure that never happens again. It’s kind of unfortunate to have that horrible of an outing. Just gotta embrace it at the end of it and really see it as a blessing to get better.”
Added manager Mickey Callaway: “I think it was just, ‘I’m not going to let that happen twice.’ You could see it in his eyes. It felt like that in between starts. He wasn’t happy with what happened the last outing, and he comes out today and steps up huge. He did everything we needed him to do.”
The Mets (70-67) remained four games back of the Cubs, who also won Monday, in the race for the second National League wild-card spot.
Syndergaard (10-7) retired 16 Nationals in a row in between Trea Turner’s leadoff single in the first inning and Andrew Stevenson’s pinch hit single in the sixth. He also worked around Anthony Rendon’s leadoff double in the seventh.
In his past three starts, Syndergaard (3.97 ERA) has walked one out of 65 batters, about one-quarter of his usual walk rate.
Callaway removed Syndergaard in favor of pinch hitter Luis Guillorme in the top of the eighth with the righthander at 90 pitches. He has not thrown more than 100 pitches in a game since July 24.
“We talked with him between [innings] and just after our little powwow, we said, hey, we all felt like it was enough,” Callaway said.
The Mets were one out away from a shutout when Tyler Bashlor allowed a three-run home run by former Mets infielder Asdrubal Cabrera. Edwin Diaz entered to get the final out.
Even with the quick turnaround, the Mets’ hitters weren’t lacking in energy or productivity. Every starting position player had at least one hit, and they forced Washington righthander Joe Ross (seven runs) out of the game after 3 2⁄3 innings.
A two-out, five-run rally in the fourth blew it open. Jeff McNeil’s two-run homer — snapping a career-worst 0-for-15 stretch — was “the biggest hit of the game,” Callaway said. J.D. Davis (3-for-5) added a two-run double and Brandon Nimmo had an RBI double. It was Nimmo’s first hit (after three walks in three plate appearances) since his return from the injured list Sunday.
None of that was more impressive than Syndergaard, though.
“Today was vintage Noah,” Nimmo said. “This is what he’s extremely capable of on an every-time-he-goes-out-there basis. He was hitting his spots, and with the stuff that he has, when he’s hitting his spots, good luck out there. It’s really tough.”