Matz held Pittsburgh to just one hit through three scoreless innings. Then, he walked Bryan Reynolds to lead off the fourth inning. Then, he allowed three singles in a row and a two-run double to Melky Cabrera.
The pitcher who usually thrives off working quickly saw the three-run lead he’d been handed suddenly unravel, and the Mets were unable to play catch-up as they fell, 8-4.
“I felt so good throughout the whole game, even when it did snowball,” Matz said. “So it just felt like I could make a pitch, but I just didn’t.”
All five of the Pirates’ batters to reach base with no outs in the fourth eventually came around to score. After a sacrifice bunt by opposing pitcher Trevor Williams -- who gave up three runs through three innings, and then held the Mets off the basepaths until he left the game after six -- Mets manager Mickey Callaway turned to his bullpen with Matz having thrown just 65 pitches.
“The ball started getting up over the plate, and they weren’t missing it,” Callaway said. “He’ll shake this one off and understand that he’s throwing some really good baseball since he’s gotten back into the rotation.”
“[Matz] looked very sharp early, just like he did at their place,” said Pirates bench coach and acting manager Tom Prince. “In the fourth inning, you get that walk [and] then everything snowballed after that. It was a quick inning. Everything happens very fast here.”
The Mets started a rally with two outs in the seventh, trying to bail out Matz, who had entered the game having allowed just four runs in 19 innings since his return to the rotation. An error by Kevin Newman allowed Michael Conforto to score in the seventh to draw the Mets within one run, but Tyler Bashlor was tagged for a three-run home run by Starling Marte in the home half of the inning to give the Pirates their margin of victory.
The loss snapped a seven-game winning streak for the Mets, and it also ended a 14-inning scoreless streak for Matz. Why it ended in such sudden fashion is a head-scratcher, even for Callaway, a former Major League pitcher who spent five years as the Indians’ pitching coach.
“I’ve seen so many pitching outings, [and] there’s no rhyme or reason, but that’s what happened,” he said. “It was up, out, over, leaving balls [in the] middle -- there can be tons of reasons why. We’ll talk to him, look at the tape and try to figure out if it’s something that we can combat in the future.”
Matz said he felt himself working back into similar pitch sequences and selections against the Pirates’ order this time, but he also felt he was making some of the competitive pitches that he needed to be able to get crucial outs. However, high-zone mistakes stung him, and he continued to keep his fast tempo instead of taking a step back.
“At that point, instead of just keep getting the ball and going, [I’ve] got to recognize that and kind of take a deep breath, sit back and figure out what I’m trying to do instead of just grabbing the ball and going,” Matz said.
The Mets will also take a breather, regroup and aim to start another winning streak as they try to blaze their way into playoff contention after becoming somewhat surprising buyers at Wednesday’s Trade Deadline, picking up All-Star pitcher Marcus Stroman, who will make his team debut on Saturday. The reset is nothing new for Callaway, who said even before Friday’s loss that he considered the seven-game win streak to be in the past, not affecting the present.
“It’s not a deflation,” Callaway said. “We weren’t going to go undefeated the rest of the way, so we’ve just got to start another one. We’ve got Stroman, we’ve got [Noah] Syndergaard after him and then we’ve got two other really quality guys after those guys. So let’s start another streak.”