NEW YORK -- Steven Matz had a scrappy 6 1/3-inning start on Saturday, allowing just one earned run and striking out five. Unfortunately for Matz, the offense couldn't back him up in a 3-0 loss to the Rays at Citi Field, but the outing could very well boost the starter's trade value by the non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Mets manager Mickey Callaway said he believes Matz's progression in pitching and confidence is due in large part to working with pitching coach Dave Eiland.
"His changeup has been really good, I think his curveball is coming along, but Matzy's ability to throw a fastball in against a righty is what sets him apart in my mind," Callway said. "His ability to throw at the front hip and bring it on that inside corner allows him to really execute the change, up, down and away and keep those guys off-balance."
Eiland has also worked with Matz on a "between-pitch routine," which includes him touching his hat between pitches to essentially clear his head and concentrate on the next pitch.
On Friday, Mets assistant general manager John Ricco addressed the media about possible trades. Matz was not specifically mentioned, but could be a possibility with the value that he brings.
"We're definitely open to any and all ways to make this team better," Ricco said. "Generally, starting pitching is tough to come by, so we know we have a pretty valuable commodity in that regard."
Despite Matz's quality start, the Mets had their leadoff hitter on base seven times Saturday evening and couldn't manufacture a run to back him. New York went 0-for-17 with runners on base.
Wilmer Flores finished 3-for-4 to lead New York's offense, and led off the second, fourth and seventh inning with a double and two singles. Flores has hit in 15 of his last 17 games.
The Rays opened the scoring in the fifth when Wilson Ramos grounded out to shortstop Amed Rosario to plate Matt Duffy. Tampa Bay added an insurance run in the eighth on a Carlos Gomez single to left field that brought in Daniel Robertson.
Ramos drove in Joey Wendle with a single to left in the ninth inning for the final margin.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Brandon Nimmo led off the bottom of the first inning with a double. He was then initially ruled safe in an attempt to steal third, but the call was overturned upon review, resulting in the first out of the game for the Mets. One batter later, Asdrubal Cabrera tapped a one-out single that would have plated Nimmo with the game's first run.
HE SAID IT
"[Matz] didn't have his best stuff today, that's for sure, but he really battled without his best stuff. That's what happens when you become a really good pitcher, instead of a guy who just goes out there and pitches and has success every now and again. To sustain consistent success, you have to not have your best stuff and do what he did today." -- Callaway
Chris Flexen will make his first Major League start of the season and just the 10th of his career on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. ET against the Rays. Flexen has made three appearances out of the bullpen this season for the Mets, allowing eight runs over 3 1/3 innings. The right-hander tossed six shutout innings during his last start, July 2 at Triple-A Las Vegas. The Rays will send right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to oppose him.