PITTSBURGH — Noah Syndergaard's audition in New York is being extended, part of what Mets manager Terry Collins hints could be a six-man rotation.
At the moment, New York's needs don't appear to be on the mound, but at the plate.
The 22-year-old Syndergaard put together six professional if not dominant innings Friday night in Pittsburgh but received little help in a 4-1 loss. The Mets managed six singles off Pirates starter Gerrit Cole while falling to 7-13 on the road. New York is 9-11 this month and has scored two runs or fewer 10 times.
The problem this time around might not have been the Mets hitters so much as it was Cole. The 24-year-old struck out 10 and came within two outs of his first career complete game.
"Even up in the ninth inning, he's still throwing 97," Collins said. "Slider was absolutely devastating at times in the middle of the game. We knew going in he was going to be tough to hit."
Syndergaard (1-2) did his best to keep pace. He struck out the first four batters he faced and five in all but allowed the Pirates to scratch out more than enough runs to win for just the second time in their last eight games.
"Not necessarily the best results I was looking for," Syndergaard said. "I didn't have the best velocity on my fastball tonight, working on throwing quite a bit of two-seams and I feel like they induced a lot of weak contact tonight."
While he wasn't electric, Syndergaard was effective. And even with Dillon Gee coming off the disabled list in the next few days, there are no immediate plans to send Syndergaard back to the minors. That's fine by the former first-round pick.
"I'm glad to stay here," Syndergaard said. "I feel like I've had some pretty good success here and I'm looking forward to making my next start. It's all about having a short memory."
Syndergaard matched Cole early but allowed the bottom of the Pittsburgh lineup to peck away at him. Alvarez doubled with two outs in the second and scored when Polanco snapped an 0-for-19 slump with an RBI-single to right and Stewart followed with a double.
Pittsburgh added two more in the sixth thanks in part to a throwing error by Syndergaard and heady baserunning by Kang, who took second on a wayward pickoff attempt then stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly.
That was more than enough for Cole, who came within two outs of Pittsburgh's first complete game since July 28, 2014.
COLE IN COMMAND
The scuffling Pirates have relied heavily on Cole (6-2) to become their stopper during an uneven opening quarter of the season. The 24-year-old halted Pittsburgh's latest slide with his longest start of the season, keeping the Mets off balance with a fastball that topped out at 99 mph and a rapidly improving breaking ball. His defense chipped in whenever the Mets appeared ready to mount a threat, turning four double plays. Stewart also threw out two runners trying to steal second base, boosting Pittsburgh's caught stealing total to 20, the best in the majors.
"Wherever I wanted the ball to be, he threw it," Stewart said. "It's the best performance I've seen him throw so far. He keeps getting better and better. The sky's the limit with him right now."
Mets: 3B David Murphy and C Travis d'Arnaud both took live batting practice on Friday as they continue their rehab from various injuries.
Pirates: RHP Charlie Morton will return to the starting rotation Monday when Pittsburgh begins a three-game series with Miami. Morton hasn't started a game in the majors since last September. He underwent offseason hip surgery and the rehab took longer than expected. Vance Worley (2-3, 4.17 ERA) will move the bullpen as a long reliever.
The three-game set continues on Saturday with a prime pitching matchup as New York's Matt Harvey (5-1, 1.98 ERA) faces Pittsburgh's resurgent A.J. Burnett (3-1, 1.38). The 38-year-old Burnett is second in the majors in ERA and is coming off seven scoreless innings in a win over the Cubs last Sunday. Harvey has not given up a run in his 16 innings while becoming the fifth pitcher in team history to surrender no runs with nine strikeouts in consecutive starts.