Sometimes it’s not just the win or the loss that’s the best indicator of a starting pitcher’s effectiveness and overall pitching performance. That was the case Saturday in Binghamton where the Mets’ highly touted left-handed prospect Steven Matz dropped a 2-0 decision against the Erie Sea Wolves.
Matz pitched brilliantly for Binghamton, tossing a seven inning complete game, using 92 pitches, scattering four hits, striking out seven and walking none. The two runs he allowed were both unearned. Of the 21 outs Matz recorded in the game, 18 of them were confined to the infield.
Yet, it was watching Matz work out of trouble, trouble not of his own making, in the Erie fifth that spoke volumes about this young man’s pitching pedigree. Erie first baseman Aaron Westlake opened the fifth by grounding a single up the middle just beyond the reach of B-Met second baseman Rylan Sandoval. Asked to bunt, Dixon Machado chopped the ball directly in front of the plate with Binghamton catcher Xorge Carrillo pouncing quickly. With a possible double play option in front of him, Carrillo fired high to second forcing B-Met shortstop T.J. Rivera to leap high in the air to bring down the ball allowing Westbrook to slide in safely.
Erie catcher Craig Albernaz placed a perfect bunt between home and third that Matz played skillfully to nip Albernaz by a hair. That left runners on second and third with only one out and the game hanging in the balance.
Binghamton drew the infield in and Matz went to work. Matz used two 78 mph curveballs to run a 1-1 count on leadoff hitter Jason Krizon before, the Erie center fielder tapped a 94 mph fastball to second baseman Sandoval for the second out with no damage done.
After getting a called strike on first pitch curveball to Corey Jones, the Erie left fielder grounded a second breaking ball to Sandoval’s left that the B-Met second baseman played cleanly with a backhand. Matz appeared to be out of the inning. But, Sandoval launched his throw to first high, the ball sailing into the stands with both runners scoring and Erie now in the lead, 2-0.
Matz’s reaction went from elation when Sandoval backhanded the ball to dejection when the throw sailed high. This was my first opportunity to watch the highly regarded Met prospect pitch, and I mentioned to the guys sitting in front of me, that controlling his emotions at this moment would be a great test for the B-Met left-hander.
Matz, passed that test with flying colors. The lanky left-hander gathered himself, sighing as he drew in air with a deep breath and went to work on the Erie hitters. Matz allowed only one baserunner the rest of the way, a lead-off single in the Erie sixth, while striking out three of the final four batters he faced.
The only indication Matz was a tad flustered with the events of the fifth came after the leadoff single in the sixth. Matz induced Erie’s 20 HR slugger Steven Maya to hit a fastball in the air over the pitching mound, and Matz called everyone away to make the catch himself rather than turn the chance to his third baseman charging from deep behind the third base bag. I liked that Matz decision. He was clearly in the best position to field the ball and wanted the responsibility that comes with making the putout.
In Matz, the Mets have an athletic left-handed pitcher, a kid with an effortless fastball with that lefty’s tail. Matz threw 63 fastballs with a range of 91 mph to 96 mph. Here’s a breakdown of his pitching effort
Total Pitchers: 92, Strikes: 63 (65%), Balls: 29 (35%)
Full Wind-up: 57, Strikes: 38 (67%_, Balls: 19 (33%)
Stretch: 35, Strikes: 25 (71%), Balls: 10 (29%)
First Pitch Strikes: Total Batters 28, Strikes 20 (71%)
Strike Breakdown: Total Number of Strikes: 63
Called: 21 (33%)
Fouled: 7 (11%)
Missed: 15 (24%)
In-Play: 20 (32%)
Matz’s sparkling pitching performance was overshadowed by an even more impressive performance by Erie’s righthander Tommy Collier. Collier carried a no-hitter through two outs of the final inning before Darrell Ceciliani slammed a sinking line drive to right field. Erie rightfielder Steven Maya launched his 6’7” frame into the air trying to snare the ball off the ground, but the ball deflected off Maya’s glove and Ceciliani had the only B-Met hit of the game.
In three starts since his promotion to Double-A, Matz has a 2.41 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 18.2 innings pitched.