Young arms square off in the Steel City

( - The New York Mets hit the road to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates Friday night at PNC Park in the first game of a weekend series.

New York split a four-game home set with the St. Louis Cardinals at Citi Field this week, and the team entered Friday a half-game back of the National League East-leading Washington Nationals.

The Mets are coming off Thursday's 5-0 victory behind Jacob deGrom, who retired 23 consecutive batters after giving up his first and only hit in the first inning. deGrom finished with 11 strikeouts and zero walks in eight innings to improve to 5-4.

"Especially coming off two tough losses the past couple nights, to come out today and put up zeros against them and shut them out, that was nice," Mets catcher Kevin Plawecki said. "That's a good-hitting ballclub. They can swing the bats pretty well. It just shows the kind of stuff Jake had working."

Lucas Duda homered twice to provide deGrom with more than enough run support.

Pittsburgh got a much needed day off Thursday. The Pirates dropped a two-game home set against Minnesota and have lost six of their last seven overall.

They took the Twins to 13 innings on Wednesday night thanks in part to Andrew McCuthen, who went deep in the eighth inning to tie the game. But the Bucs wound up losing five innings later when Joe Mauer launched his first home run of the season off reliever Antonio Bastardo.

"High slider, hung up in the air, up over the plate probably," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Just wasn't sharp."

Staff ace Gerrit Cole takes the mound for Pittsburgh in Friday's opener. The right-hander is coming off a loss to the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Saturday despite yielding just two earned runs in six innings. He also struck out eight batters and walked only one.

In 48 2/3 innings this season, Cole has allowed only two homers. He has also walked fewer than three batters in all eight of his starts, earning April's National League Pitcher of the Month award.

Noah Syndergaard, New York's top prospect, takes the hill for at least one more start in place of Dillon Gee, who is rehabbing a groin injury. The 22- year-old right-hander recorded his first big league victory against Milwaukee on Sunday, as he went six innings and allowed just one earned run on three hits. Syndergaard, the youngest Mets starting pitcher to debut since Jon Niese in 2008, finished with five strikeouts against only one walk as he makes his case to stay in the rotation.

"It was a dream come true," said Syndergaard, who attacked the strike zone with a 97-mph fastball and threw 20 of his first 24 pitches for strikes. "I would love to stay. Nobody wants to be pitching at Triple-A. The ultimate goal is to be pitching in the big leagues."

Pittsburgh went 4-3 against the Mets last season. This marks the first meeting between the two clubs in 2015.