Steven Matz has been an instant success in the major leagues, and he faced his first touch of adversity when his first start of this season did not go as planned.
In his season debut against Miami on April 11, Matz allowed seven runs in just 1 2/3 innings.
Matz showed tremendous maturity by responding to the adversity with seven shutout innings in Cleveland. He then allowed just two runs in 6 2/3 innings in Atlanta, and six shutout innings against San Francisco last Friday. That gave Matz seven wins in his first ten starts, the most
Mets Manager Terry Collins said of Matz mixing up his pitches better now, and what he focused on in that start against Miami, “He didn’t have fastball command, so he kept throwing it. If you look at it, he was having trouble finding commanding his fastball and he just stayed with it. He was trying to search for that release point. If you look at the next start, all of a sudden, he’s mixing in his change and his curveball and got easier outs. So, I think that was a big factor is that, no matter what you’re doing, even if you don’t have command of the breaking ball, you’ve still got to throw it.
“Go back to one game, I refer to it a lot, the one game that Jake pitched, maybe his second or third start here in the big leagues, he didn’t have a breaking ball for five innings, and all of a sudden had it, all of a sudden found it about the fourth inning. Next thing you know it’s seven innings and one run, because you’ve got to continue to use your stuff, you can’t just throw it out the window. You’ve gotta let those hitters that you’ll throw it, and sooner or later, you’ll find the grip or release point to make it effective,” said Collins.
Matz was set to face the Braves for the second time in as many weeks, and Collins said of what he wanted to see from his young pitcher, “Well, after that first start, I think he’s absolutely gone in the right direction. He’s pitching, he’s using all his pitches, he’s not relying on one pitch in any situation. He’s using his changeup effectively, so all it is now is continue to work on locate, locate, locate. He’s exactly where we thought he was going to be right now.”
On Wednesday, Matz went out and threw one of the best outings of his career, as he went 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball on just two hits, did not walk a batter, and struck out eight.
The two hits were to pitcher Jhoulys Chacin, whichcame in the third inning after Matz retired the first eight in the Braves lineup; and Erick Aybar, with two out in the eighth inning.
Matz hit 105 pitches on Aybar’s hit, and that was it for him on the rainy afternoon.
Matz’s control was incredible, as he pitched to contact, and not only didn’t walk anybody, he rarely got to three balls in any counts. He did hit Freddie Freeman with a pitch that grazed his jersey in the seventh inning.
All three runners Atlanta got on base had one thing in common: they didn’t get past first base.
Matz struck out eight to give him 30 K’s in 28 2/3 innings on the season.
Collins said of Matz’s outing being an example of just how dominant he can be, “I think today’s the perfect example of it. Tough day to pitch because of the weather, and he went out and did what he’s been doing lately, throwing strikes, using all his stuff.”
On how important is was for Matz to pitch deep into the game, as Colon did Monday night, Collins said, “As I said before the game, we’ve gotta keep an eye on these guys. They’re coming back probably the first time all season on four days rest; therefore, we’ve got to make sure they’re okay. Bartolo, even though he’s a big, strong guy, he’s still 43 years old, he’s still coming back on four days for the first time, and you know, these next games are important, and when you have those kinds of leads, you know what, hey, look, I get shutouts and how important they are to guys, but wins are the most important thing, and to be able to go out there after four days and pitch as well as he did this previous time, we’re gonna take care of these guys.”