(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
Not even a suspended game that lasted 13 innings Sunday could prevent the spotlight from shining on the Mets’ most recent called-up prospect Steven Matz.
After a 21-minute delay to start the suspended contest from Saturday and seven subsequent innings, the Citi Field crowd still looked restless and ecstatic to see what the 24-year old prospect from Long Island had in store.
And he did not disappoint, but perhaps not in the way that Mets fans expected.
“A great start for him (Matz),” Mets manager Terry Collins stated. “He’s as advertised.”
His 7.2 innings of five-hit, two-run, six-strikeout ball was overshadowed by a 3-for-3 performance at the plate with four RBIs. The four-RBI performance tied a franchise record for most in a single game since Dwight Gooden accomplished the feat over 35 years ago (May 11, 1980) against the Phillies.
Matz, who had hit .304 in AAA-Las Vegas before being called up, also set the Mets record for RBIs in a debut by a single player and tied the single-game record for most hits by a pitcher, held by another of New York’s highly-touted pitchers, Noah Syndergaard.
Not to be outdone, his performance on the mound was as impressive for a young pitcher dealing with the opening-start jitters. Besides throwing a 3-1 meatball down the heart of the plate to his first-ever foe in the majors, Brandon Phillips, and leaving a bleeder over the middle to Todd Frazier, both of which went for solo shots, Matz was nothing short of immaculate.
Poise isn’t a word that is thrown out much at a rookie making his first start. However, to come back with such poise and strike out both Phillips and Frazier in their ensuing at-bats after their respective homers made it all that more impressive.
Matz was blowing batters away with a four-seamer in the mid-to-high 90s, while also tossing in a 79-to-80 mph late-breaking curve.
As for his efforts with the bat, Matz quickly drove the crowd in Flushing to its feet with a blistering go-ahead two-run double to dead center in the bottom of the second, tailing out of the reach of Cincinnati outfielder Billy Hamilton.
“We needed a big hit, which we haven’t done.” replied Collins about Matz’s double. “It lifted everyone in the dugout.”
“I barreled it up pretty good,” said Matz about his first Major League hit, “and when I saw it go over his (Hamilton’s) glove, that was pretty cool.”
He wasn’t done there. Then, in the fourth, with the game tied at 2-2, a perfectly-placed single on a hit-and-run set the stage for Curtis Granderson’s gapper to put the Metsies back in front.
But wait. In the sixth, Matz drew a standing ovation as he stepped to the dish with the bags full and none out. He cemented another memory into Mets’ fans heads by knocking a two-run single into right field and bringing a stunned reaction to this writer’s and many others’ faces.
You never want to let the facts get in the way of a good story. However, the two-through-five hitters for the Mets were a combined 1-for-19 with two walks and two runs scored in Matz’s start.
Met fans know the pitching is there. And according to Sandy Alderson, he has been given the go-ahead to increase payroll and make moves where they are needed.
The gaps in the lineup are glaring. It’s time to go out and find a couple of hitters to complement these pitchers, because one or two runs in the dog days of July and August are not going to get it done.
But, we have seen this story before. I believe I speak for many of us when I say: I’ll believe it when I see it.