NEW YORK (AP) — After two years away, Noah Syndergaard was still nasty.
Even if it was just for a few pitches.
Syndergaard looked sharp in his brief but long-awaited return from Tommy John surgery, and the New York Mets beat the Miami Marlins 2-1 in nine innings Tuesday night for a doubleheader sweep.
“I felt great,” Syndergaard said. “It was amazing to get back out there.”
Javier Báez dashed home from third base with the winning run in extra innings as Anthony Bass (3-9) fumbled James McCann's slow bouncer between the mound and home plate.
In the opener, Francisco Lindor homered and drove in three runs to help the Mets stop a five-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory. Marcus Stroman went five innings for his 10th win.
Syndergaard started the nightcap for New York, firing his first major league pitch in two years and finally completing a delayed comeback. With his long, blond hair blowing in the breeze, he topped out at 96 mph and struck out his first two batters in a perfect inning, throwing nine of 10 pitches for strikes.
That was all for his first time out — and he expects to make another one-inning appearance before the season ends Sunday.
The 29-year-old right-hander can become a free agent after the season.
“I'm fairly confident that we'll reach an agreement and I'll be pitching here next year,” he said. “New York has a special place in my heart.”
Syndergaard received a couple of warm ovations from a Citi Field crowd of 20,647 dotted with Thor signs.
Back in the dugout, he got hugs and pats on the chest from teammates when his short outing was over.
“Almost had to shed a tear,” Syndergaard said about the fan reaction. “I'm not really an emotional guy, but it definitely got to me.”
It was Syndergaard’s first major league game since Sept. 29, 2019. He made a pair of rehab appearances last week for Triple-A Syracuse, working a scoreless inning each time.
Trevor Williams was originally pegged to start the nightcap, but about 2 1/2 hours before the first game, the Mets activated Syndergaard from the 60-day injured list and announced he would start Game 2.
Syndergaard and the Mets initially targeted a June return, but his rehab progression was slowed by a sore elbow in late May that caused him to be shut down for a while and then a positive test for COVID-19 in late August even though he is vaccinated.
“It was definitely a crazy journey,” Syndergaard said. “It felt like everything was working against me.
“It just felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders when I was able to get back out there and compete.”
All-Star rookie Trevor Rogers pitched five terrific innings in the second game for the Marlins, permitting one run and three hits with six strikeouts and no walks.
Rogers retired his first 11 batters, fanning five straight, before Báez singled to extend the longest on-base streak of his career to 21 games.
“He's tough against us,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “He can be one of those special pitchers.”
Jonathan Villar doubled in the fifth and scored on Kevin Pillar's single to tie it.
Brad Hand (6-7) worked a 1-2-3 inning for his first win with the Mets.
Miami took a 1-0 lead when rookie Jesús Sánchez clobbered a 445-foot homer on Williams' first pitch in the second.
Lewin Díaz launched a two-run homer in the first game for the last-place Marlins, who have dropped seven straight.
Stroman (10-13) allowed two runs in his 33rd start this year — most in the majors — after sitting out the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He could make one more in the season finale Sunday before becoming a free agent.
“It’s extremely gratifying,” Stroman said. “I'm looking forward to free agency, however it may play out.”
The athletic right-hander won for the first time in six starts since an Aug. 22 victory at Dodger Stadium and even got his first career stolen base, the first for a Mets pitcher since Jacob deGrom in August 2017.
A smiling Stroman also had some fun with Marlins leadoff man Jazz Chisholm Jr., playfully carrying him piggyback-style after they crossed paths on a play at first base.
Seth Lugo struck out two in a 1-2-3 sixth and Edwin Díaz did the same in the seventh for his 31st save in 37 chances. New York took the opener of its 14th doubleheader this year — most by a big league team since the Mets played 19 and the Montreal Expos 15 in 1979, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Brandon Nimmo tripled on the third pitch from rookie opener Zach Thompson (2-7) and scored on Lindor's single.
Lindor connected for his 19th homer in the sixth, a two-run shot off lefty Steven Okert.
“I think it's important for him to finish strong,” said Rojas, who got his 100th career win in the opener.
New York, eliminated from playoff contention last weekend following a second-half swoon, had dropped 10 of 11 heading into its final home series of a disappointing season.
The single-admission doubleheader, with both games scheduled for seven innings under pandemic rules, was played to make up a Sept. 1 rainout at Citi Field.
Marlins: 1B Jesús Aguilar had season-ending arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in Miami and is expected to be ready for spring training. Aguilar batted .261 with 22 homers and 93 RBIs in 131 games. He went on the injured list Sept. 8. ... RHP Pablo López (strained rotator cuff) was unable to throw live batting practice because of afternoon rain so he threw about 45-50 pitches in a bullpen, simulating innings with hitters standing in. He still hopes to pitch in a big league game before the season ends. ... SS Miguel Rojas (toe) sat out the opener but batted leadoff in the second game.
Mets: With the Mets eliminated, Rojas said deGrom won’t pitch again this season. The two-time Cy Young Award winner has been sidelined since mid-July because of an elbow injury that’s healed, according to the club.
Miami RHP Elieser Hernández (1-3, 4.24 ERA) pitches Wednesday night against Mets RHP Taijuan Walker (7-11, 4.57).
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Mike Fitzpatrick, The Associated Press