NEW YORK (AP) Noah Syndergaard needed to do more than give the New York Mets a decent start. He needed to save their season.
And after a couple shaky innings, the 23-year-old rookie delivered.
Syndergaard held off the Kansas City Royals until the Mets' offense got going, and New York cut its World Series deficit to 2-1 with a 9-3 victory Friday night.
While his slightly more seasoned teammates Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom wore down in the first two games in Kansas City, Syndergaard did the opposite.
Pitching as if the enormity of the World Series was on his flowing golden locks, he was able to adjust against the persistent Royals and found his rhythm.
''I think one thing I learned throughout this entire season was to try not to let the game speed up on you,'' Syndergaard said. ''I feel like a little bit in the first and a little bit in the second I started to feel that, so I stepped off the mound, took a deep breath.''
Syndergaard started the game like he believed the hype behind his nickname, the Norse god of thunder, lightning and storms. He created a disturbance with his first pitch, a 97 mph fastball over the head of Alcides Escobar. And Syndergaard kept firing bolts: of 20 first-inning pitches, nine were at 98 mph, five more at 99 mph and one to Ben Zobrist reached 100 mph.
While Syndergaard struck out Escobar, Zobrist doubled on a hop off the center-field wall and scored after an infield hit and Eric Hosmer's sacrifice fly.
''He was probably overamped,'' Mets manager Terry Collins said. ''That's the first time I've ever seen him throw the ball over the catcher's head.''
Given a 2-1 lead on David Wright's homer, Syndergaard quickly gave it up in a four-hit second that included Alex Rios' RBI single and a run-scoring passed ball. He got a break when Alex Gordon was called out on video review when he tried to reach third on Rios' single. With a runner on second, Syndergard got Zobrist to fly to center, starting a streak of 12 consecutive outs.
''He threw a lot of breaking stuff, a lot of change-ups a lot of sliders,'' Kansas City's Mike Moustakas said. ''Kind of pitched backwards, threw his fastball when he needed to.''
Turns out a clubhouse conversation with pitching coach Dan Warthen helped Syndergaard find his slider's release point.
''Once we started executing that, we were able to expand with his fastball or expand with his curveball,'' catcher Travis d'Arnaud said.
Nursing a 5-3 advantage in the sixth, Syndergaard loaded the bases with two outs on an infield hit and a pair of walks. Collins left him in and would have been second-guessed endlessly if the decision backfired, but on his 104th and final pitch, Syndergaard retired Rios on a grounder to shortstop - not with heat, but on an 88 mph slider.
''It brings me joy that he decided to leave me in there, and has that much confidence in me to get that final out,'' Syndergaard said.
Syndergaard allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings with six strikeouts and two walks. While the pesky Royals swung and missed only eight of Harvey's 80 pitches and three of deGrom's 95, they swung past 16 of Syndergaard's 104.
''If you're going to get a really good pitcher,'' Royals manager Ned Yost said, ''you better get to him early.''
They didn't. When Syndergaard stopped trying to overpower, he and the Mets found success and gave themselves a chance to survive.
''Tonight,'' Collins said, ''he's showed you what he's learned.''