After a start against the Phillies in which he struck out eight, but never picked up a consistent rhythm to carry himself into the sixth inning, Steven Matz picked up where he had left off as an efficiency-driven pitcher, allowing three runs on three hits and two walks while striking out four in the Mets’ 4-3 win over the Miami Marlins to open the first half of a double-header.
Matz, who wound up with the no-decision, lasted six and a third innings, throwing a healthy 66 of his 100 pitches for strikes while limiting the collateral damage to a pair of home runs in the second inning. The first came on a poorly-spotted fastball to Peter O’Brien, and the second came just a few moments later, as Isaac Galloway mashed a stiff changeup into the second deck in left field to get the Marlins out to an early 2-0 lead.
By the end of the second, Matz had already thrown 39 pitches (21 in the first and 18 in the second), and, fairly early on, found himself pressed for some more economical at-bats while his offense struggled to put anything together against rookie right-hander Sandy Alcantara. Thankfully for New York, Matz made sure to make a statement before coming back out for the third. He clubbed a first-pitch fastball from Alcantara into the M&M’s Sweet Seats to tie things up at two. Whether the two simply corresponded by chance or momentum, a light turned on not so shortly after, and Matz instantly found a groove.
The lefty began with a three-up, three-down third inning worth just nine pitches, and despite a longer 16-pitch fourth, worked resourcefully, inducing a pair of flyouts while getting Lewis Brinson to roll over for a 6-3 putout after falling behind 3-1. A similar pattern followed into the fifth when Matz lost Galloway with a (very) outside sinker to walk his leadoff man, but three pitches later had two outs and empty bases on his ledger thanks to a routine double-play ball from Rafael Ortega.
Matz seemed to work almost exclusively with that sinking fastball after the two dingers, but slowly came to trust his slider and curveball as a weapon early in counts. In the sixth inning, bullied his way ahead of Miguel Rojas 1-2 before floating a curveball and throwing the end result back to first for a weak 1-3 groundout and dropped a changeup inside to Starlin Castro for a routine 5-3 putaway as well in a clean, 11-pitch frame.
Between the third and sixth innings, Matz faced the minimum 12 hitters, and despite registering just one strikeout (on the opposing pitcher, no less), didn’t allow a single hit over the 50 pitches. Put another way, the lefty, even without his sharpest of stuff, still kept faith in a 95 mph fastball and won his at-bats to keep his team in the game.
A bloop ground-rule double from Brian Anderson to lead off the seventh Matz’s stride and ultimately created a run that Drew Smith would fail to strand in his place, the lefty still came away from the game far better than it appeared at the end of the second inning. This theme, while not as encouraging as that of a pitcher who obliterates his competiton, has certainly been an encouraging part of Matz’s game this year, and will hopefully continue to evolve as he looks to finish what would be his first season of 30 starts.