This isn’t at all what Noah Syndergaard and the New York Mets had envisioned through more than a third of the 2017 MLB season. Following two straight trips to the playoffs, including a World Series appearance in 2015, the Mets had high hopes for themselves, looking to be one of the National League’s top contenders.

But with the team sitting below .500 and facing an uphill battle in the NL East, the Mets have fallen short of expectations.

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Perhaps no other Met has embodied the team’s struggles more so than Syndergaard. The right-hander hasn’t pitched since April 30 when he suffered a partially torn right lat that will keep him on the shelf for months. Once considered an NL Cy Young candidate, it’s unknown if Syndergaard will take the mound again in this year.

The team’s starting rotation was supposed to be their strength, yet New York’s staff has been one of the worst in baseball. Pitchers like Syndergaard and Steven Matz have missed the majority of the year with injuries, while Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom are not putting up numbers Mets fans are used to seeing.

It hasn’t just been New York’s inability to win games that has plagued them in 2017. Issues away from the field have been as much a part of the year as their losses on the diamond. Whether it’s been Harvey’s suspension or even an incident involving Mr. Met, the team hasn’t been able to stay out of their own way.

Syndergaard even had an incident of his own that drew the ire of some Mets fans. His injury came a few days after he refused to undergo an MRI on his arm, having missed his previous start with bicep tendonitis.

“Yeah I denied the MRI, but the MRI was not gonna show anything,” Syndergaard told International Business Times Thursday at an event for Cholula Hot Sauce. “I’m not gonna go in a tube for the hell of it and get more radiation. I refused the MRI, I was still able to pitch. I was still throwing 100, 101 (mph) so obviously there’s no structural issues. I don’t know why everyone’s freaking out about nothing. I just know I had my rights and I know no one’s more in tune with their body than I am, and I’m not gonna tell someone to get in a tube when they don’t know what’s going on with me.”

Prior to his injury, Syndergaard hadn’t had to deal with much negativity at all from Mets fans or the New York media. He had a terrific rookie season in 2015, getting the win in New York’s only World Series victory. His 2.60 ERA was good for third among NL starters in 2016 as he made the All-Star team in just his second season.

Heading into this season, Syndergaard was projected to take another step and become one of baseball’s elite starters. Aside from the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, who’s been MLB’s best pitcher for the better part of a decade, Syndergaard might have been the most popular NL Cy Young pick among MLB experts in spring training.

Noah Syndergaard Mets At the Order of Cholula media event with New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard in New York City on June 8, 2017, the right-hander said he believes his team will turn their season around. Photo: Stuart Ramson

That quickly changed with his injury, as did the optimism of many Mets fans. Yoenis Cespedes went onto the disabled list three days before Syndergaard got hurt, and Jeurys Familia joined him less than two weeks later. All of a sudden, the Mets were without their best starting pitcher, reliever and everyday player.

With no championships since 1986 and a history of losing, the team’s fans have come to expect the worst. Even before the Washington Nationals built a double-digit lead in the division, a large portion of the Mets’ faithful was ready to write off the season.

“Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, it doesn’t matter how absurd it sounds,” Syndergaard told IBT.  “I just wish they would continue to stay positive with us, stay confident. There’s a lot of baseball left. We got reinforcements on the way to help us out, just staying positive. Still a lot of baseball to be played.”

The night before Syndergaard spoke to IBT, the Mets beat the Texas Rangers behind a strong start from Zack Wheeler, who is beginning to look like the frontline starter that he was expected to be before missing two seasons with injuries. New York begins the 11th week of the season on a three-game winning streak, doing so after both Matz and Cespedes returned to the lineup Saturday.

When asked about the possibility of shutting himself down for the season if the Mets fell out of the playoff race, Syndergaard said the question hadn’t even crossed his mind because he was confident the team would find their footing.

“The big thing for us is being able to stay positive, and I think a lot of that has to do with the veteran leadership that we have within the clubhouse,” Syndergaard said. “Curtis Granderson is a great guy and an even better competitor. Jay Bruce. Neil Walker is what I would describe as a spark plug, he’s a great guy to have around and has tons of energy. I think those guys are just gonna be the backbone for us to get us back on track. Especially David Wright, even though he’s on the shelf right now, he’s present in the clubhouse every day.”

Ultimately, New York’s season will come down to their pitching. New York’s offense has been good enough to keep them in the race, ranking in the top third among NL teams in runs scored. The starting staff was the team’s strength in each of the last two years, but it’s wildly underperformed in 2017. After ranking in the top four in both 2015 and 2016 in NL starters’ ERA, the Mets are down to 11th this season.

With the return of Matz and Seth Lugo this past weekend, the Mets quickly gained some starting pitching depth. Robert Gsellman has avoided a move to the bullpen with a string of four straight effective starts, and it appears the team will go to a six-man rotation for the next few weeks.

“I not gonna be opposed to an extra day of rest,” Syndergaard said, regarding the possibility of a six-man rotation. “It’s a long season. Pitching is extremely hard on your body. So any extra time you have to recover, I mean I understand there’s monetary situations that go with it, but that doesn’t matter to me. It’s about going out there to win.”

At just 24 years old, Syndergaard isn't exactly one for keeping baseball traditions just for the sake of it. He thinks the 162-game season is too long, and he believes something needs to be done to prevent long extra-inning contests (“Have a home run derby, or something, I don’t know. Something exciting, like a shootout scenario, but for baseball.”). But some pessimistic fans might find Syndergaard’s notion that the Mets will actually turn things around in what has looked like yet another lost season to be his most novel thought.

Why wouldn’t Syndergaard be confident? All he’s known since coming to the majors is success.

Syndergaard made his MLB debut in 2015, nine years after the Mets had last been in the postseason. New York has reached the playoffs in both of his two seasons with the club, and only six teams started the 2017 season with better World Series odds than the Mets.

Syndergaard was even part of a major shift in the popularity of New York’s baseball teams. With 10 more playoff appearances since they faced off in the 2000 World Series, the Yankees were the city’s clear No.1 team in 2015. Just two years later, that is no longer the case.

In 2016, the Mets beat the Yankees in local TV ratings for the first time since 2006 when both teams had their own cable networks. A Quinnipiac University poll at the beginning of this season discovered that baseball fans in the Big Apple preferred the team from Queens (45 percent) over the Bronx Bombers (43 percent).

“New York is a Mets city,” Syndergaard said on “The Dan Patrick Show” in April.

Just as quickly as things turned in the Mets’ favor, they can revert back to the way they were. Led by the likes of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, the Yankees are now the young, exciting team that has a chance to win a championship. Through 60 games, they have nine more wins than the Mets and are showing no signs of slowing down.

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Syndergaard hasn’t yet picked up a baseball since he last pitched, and there is still no timetable for his return. He’s a key piece in what he believes can still be a successful 2017 campaign, even though the Mets trail the Nationals by 9.5 games in the division with two and a half months of baseball in the books.

“I’m pretty confident here that the team’s gonna turn things around and it’ll be perfect timing for right when I get back.”