? 8 Scoreless Innings ?
— New York Mets (@Mets) May 25, 2016
New York Mets starter Steven Matz is subtly emerging as one of the game’s best lefties.
Tucked away in the confines of Citi Field is an innocuous moment in New York Mets history.
Enter Steven Matz, a lanky kid from Long Island who steps up to the plate down one-nil to the Cincinnati Reds. With a 0-1 count, he belts a fastball up-the-middle for an extra-base hit — the first of three on the afternoon.
The Massapequa product would enjoy a historic debut, one that was confounded by a shell-shocking fact: Matz, standing at 6-feet-4-inches tall, is a starting pitcher.
“The kid’s special, man,” said catcher Johnny Monell following Matz’s historic debut. “The kid’s a super athlete.”
Little did anyone know just how precise this comment would be. Matz, 24, had a stellar first season, posting a 2.27 ERA and 1.234 WHIP over 35.2 IP. He also started Game 4 of the NLCS — the game that the Mets advanced to the Fall Classic.
The success of Matz comes with one tiny asterisk: the 24-year-old still has to convince the skeptics that he isn’t injury prone, something many people believe stems from an insufficiency of strength and stamina.
“They can say what they want to say,” Matz said after the Mets held their first official workout for pitchers and catchers before the season, via Newsday. “There’s nothing I can do. I work as hard as I can to stay healthy, to be the best pitcher I can be. That’s all I can do. Injuries are going to happen, and that’s out of my control.”
Matz made two impressive starts before missing the next two months with a torn lat muscle, last season. He then returned in the thick of the playoff hunt, just to be informed that he suffered a freakish back injury that emanated from a poor sleeping position.
In 2016, he recovered from a poor start to the season and was lights-out afterwords, but missed some time due to elbow soreness.
On that first note, one of the more puzzling instances of the Mets’ season came after he struggled in his first start. Shortly after allowing seven runs in less than two innings, an anonymous scout was quoted in the New York Post saying:
“He looks like a young guy who needs a month in Triple-A to clean up some things.”
Well, the best way to silence the critics is to go out and perform, and Matz has done just that. Utilizing a terrific fastball, plus-sinker and plus-changeup, the lefty has racked up impressive strikeout totals. Additionally, it’s his impeccable command that permits him to keep his bases-on-balls total down.
“He’s got a power sinker,” third baseman Wilmer Flores said. “It’s hard for the hitters when he throws it inside, and the big curveball, it’s a good mix.”
Matz, 24, is technically considered a rookie, despite appearing in multiple starts last season. He’ll likely be one of the leading candidates for NL ROY when all is said and done.
“If you have a guy who works quick and he just gets the ball and wants to pitch, I think it keeps the other team off-balance,” catcher Rene Rivera told the post.
With Matt Harvey struggling, Matz has stepped up and embraced the “ace” role. Along with Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, Matz has anchored one of the best rotations in the league.
“I trust our minor-league people, but they’ve told me, ‘This guy might be better than all of ’em in the end,’” manager Terry Collins said, via the NY Post.