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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

It’s OK, Noah Syndergaard’s absence only temporary

New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard looks on

New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard looks on from the dugout before a game between the Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

One of these days, Terry Collins is going to sit down for his pregame media briefing, name another pitcher felled by some bizarre affliction, then tell us he was only kidding. Because, honestly, it’s getting too comical to believe.

Friday, however, was not one of those days.

No, Collins again was serious this time in announcing that Noah Syndergaard had been scratched from Saturday’s start because of strep throat. For those still keeping track, that was 24 hours after Steven Matz was scratched with his shoulder impingement and seven days after Jacob deGrom was scratched because he needed to have his ulnar nerve relocated. It’s almost like the Mets are inventing new ways to sabotage themselves.

Right off the top, we’ll just say the deGrom and Matz news was hardly shocking. We never actually believed they’d throw another pitch this season, anyway, after their injuries. Now it wouldn’t surprise us if Matz just gets the bone spur in his elbow taken care of sooner rather than later because putting that prized shoulder at further risk doesn’t seem to make much sense.

As for Syndergaard, the expectation is he’ll be back, maybe Monday or Tuesday, as soon as whatever antibiotic he’s on knocks out the strep. Though we usually tack on a few days to the Mets’ best estimates, it’s probably safe to take Collins on his word with Syndergaard, who was spotted playing catch, in uniform, before Friday night’s 10-5 victory over the Phillies.

Any day that doesn’t involve a date with an MRI tube has to be considered a plus for the Mets, but there was the not-so-small matter of filling the next 18 innings or so with Gabriel Ynoa and Sean Gilmartin, backed by an exhausted bullpen. For Collins, however, the ridiculous has become the routine.

“You’re numb to it now,” Collins said, “it’s happened so much.”

With all of these freaky developments, the Mets better make sure to pack the mosquito nets and bug spray Monday for South Beach, because it would be just their luck to have a clubhouse Zika outbreak as they’re closing on the wild card. As this past week has proven once again, nothing is too outrageous for this Mets crew. On back-to-back nights, they had Yoenis Cespedes robbed of a game-winning home run in spectacular fashion Wednesday to twice rallying from two-run deficits Thursday, first on Jose Reyes’ tying blast in the ninth and then on Asdrubal Cabrera’s walk-off in the 11th.

Over those 48 hours, the emotional swing was off the charts, tempered only by the setbacks to Matz and Syndergaard. The Mets used a team-record 27 players Thursday to finally topple the Phillies. Their only Original Five rotation member still standing at the moment is 43-year-old Bartolo Colon. And through all of this mess, they’ve managed to keep hold of a wild-card berth, as tangled as that race has been.

“It’s sort of ironic,” Sandy Alderson said before Friday’s game. “It’s gotten progressively easier because it’s been easier to dismiss the problems we’ve had. To simply ignore them and move forward. We’ve had a lot of practice at it. I think responding to these things has a lot to do with attitude also. We haven’t really sat around and whined about it. I mean, it’s just the way it is. Just keep moving.”

That’s the response we expected from Alderson, the former Marine. And the whining about it, well, that’s our job. Check out how Collins piloted his pitching staff Friday. Sully had an easier time landing his plane in the Hudson. Collins pulled the starter Ynoa after two innings for a pinch hitter, replaced him with Logan Verrett for two more, then went to Josh Smoker, Erik Goeddel, Josh Edgin and Hansel Robles to get through the whole nine.

This game had not one, but two at-bats by relief pitchers, Smoker and Robles — something that’s usually as rare as a lunar eclipse, even with the NL’s archaic rules. Other than a few fantastic finishes, the Mets aren’t racking up many style points down the stretch, and Friday featured more drudgery than drama. But only the final score matters, especially in September, and the Mets were smiling by the end.


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