In an uphill battle in which the Mets ultimately came up short, Steven Matz turned in his worst outing in quite some time.
Although Matz went just five innings, allowing five earned runs on nine hits, he certainly deserved better than what he was given on a few occasions.
He exited in the bottom of the sixth inning after allowing a double to Miguel Andujar and a run-scoring single from Greg Bird to lead things off, and altogether failed to establish his primary pitches.
With an ERA now at a more lukewarm 3.65, Matz will look to pick up the pieces following his rough start to the second half. Considering some of the strides he made, however – against a hungry New York Yankee lineup, no less – there’s definitely reason to believe he can bounce back.
It may help to first address the uglier aspects of his start. Even in his first three and a third innings, in which the Yankees were held off the board, Matz had managed to throw just 19 of his 33 sinkers for strikes, notching just three swings and misses.
The reliance on the changeup and breaking pitches dug Matz into a hole that he ultimately never made it out of, and the effects were particularly harsh in the fourth and fifth innings, where Matz allowed four runs on four equally loud extra base hits to Andujar, Bird, Didi Gregorius, and Aaron Judge.
Of course, Matt den Dekker‘s
inability to play adventures in center field had a hand in the onslaught.
The center fielder misread the triple by Gregorius, racing in and diving feebly in a last-ditch attempt to snare a ball that had plenty of carry. Additionally, the Bird double perhaps could have been ruled an error, as den Dekker failed to squeeze it right as he seemed to have tracked it down.
However, both hits made it back to the warning track for a reason out of the defense’s control, but well within Matz’s. As any competitive lineup would, the Yankees feasted on the poorly spotted pitches, at one point taking advantage of some hanging sliders, as well.
Contrary to his season-ending implosion against the Yankees last season, however, Matz showed far more moxie, even shining at times in the loss.
Although he was a tad off-kilter in the third (as evidenced by a four-pitch walk to Aaron Hicks and a near-homer from Brandon Drury), he tossed a hitless first three frames on 38 pitches, making his way on a plethora of weak ground balls to the left side of the infield, even finding the sinker, if even for a moment, on a crisp strikeout of Austin Romine.
The fourth inning began on a grim note for Matz, who had waited nearly 20 minutes in the dugout to come back out and pitch before falling behind 3-0 to Giancarlo Stanton and then 2-0 to Gary Sanchez with Stanton on first.
The lefty adapted, however, threading in two sliders to even the count and, after missing with a borderline sinker, ran another one by the designated hitter, who swung and missed. After three runs came in on a triple and two doubles, pitching coach Dave Eiland came out for a visit.
Even with another run crossing, in between the outs, the pitches that proceeded represented a step in the right direction, as Matz would record the final two outs on seven pitches – all strikes, including five sinkers.
The energy carried over to the fifth inning, as Matz navigated a leadoff double from Judge with a groundout and two foul popouts against the middle of the order. Two such outs came about after Matz fell behind (2-1 to Stanton and 2-0 to Sanchez) before clawing back into the at-bats and ultimately winning.
It’s tough to blame manager Mickey Callaway for trying to stretch another inning out of his pitcher when last night’s starter tuckered out after the fifth, but at the same time, Matz certainly would have made it to the showers on a high note had he been spared from the top of the sixth.
Even with a poor performance, the lefty continues to grow – this time against one of the most threatening hitting cores in all of baseball.