Mets-Rays Preview

Noah Syndergaard has enjoyed an electric rookie season for the New York Mets, though they're still waiting for his success at Citi Field to translate elsewhere.

He seeks his first road victory Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Syndergaard (6-5, 2.66 ERA) is 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA in his last nine games. Sunday's 5-2 win against Washington marked the second straight outing in which he fanned nine over eight innings. The two runs he allowed to the Nationals came on solo homers, including one on his fifth pitch, but he retired the next 10 batters and didn't issue a walk for the second consecutive start.

His 5.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio is the best in franchise history among Mets rookies with at least 10 starts. The second-highest is Dwight Gooden's 3.8 mark from 1984.

"This guy knows what he's doing out there," manager Terry Collins told MLB's official website. "He's got a feel for it."

Those last two outings were at home, though, where he's 6-1 with a 1.57 ERA in eight contests. On the road, he's 0-4 with a 4.34 mark. Citi Field has been one of baseball's most pitcher-friendly parks this year - the 3.47 ERA there is second-lowest in the majors, narrowly trailing Tropicana Field (3.46).

The Rays' offensive approach could also help Syndergaard's cause. They're striking out every 4.5 plate appearances, and the nine they had in Friday's 4-3 loss to open this series gives them 79 in the last eight games.

New York (59-50) extended its lead over Washington in the NL East to 2 1/2 games with its seventh consecutive win. The Mets, who have trailed in four games during their winning streak, went ahead in the ninth on Wilmer Flores' two-out single after Tampa Bay (54-56) took the lead on Evan Longoria's eighth-inning home run.

Collins' club allowed fewer than four runs for the ninth time in 12 games and is seeking a fifth consecutive road win for the first time since July 25-29, 2011.

"Tonight was pure character,'' he said. "I can't say enough. They know these games are big."

The Rays had three solo homers with James Loney and Grady Sizemore also going deep. Longoria is batting .467 during a seven-game hitting streak, while Asdrubal Cabrera is 12 for 21 in his last five.

Another low-scoring game could be in order with Nathan Karns (6-5, 3.37) on the mound for Tampa Bay. He owns a 3-2 record and 2.73 ERA in his last nine outings and has been particularly tough to hit in the last three with opponents are batting .161.

He struck out seven over 5 1-3 innings and gave up a two-run homer in Tampa Bay's 5-4 win against the Chicago White Sox on Monday.

This marks Karns' first appearance against the Mets. He won both previous interleague starts this year, limiting Miami and Philadelphia to one earned run and five hits over 12 innings.

Michael Cuddyer could return this weekend for New York after going 0 for 3 with an intentional walk in a rehab game for Class-A St. Lucie on Friday. He hasn't played since July 21 due to left knee inflammation and was hitting .193 over his last 19 games.