Mets start September with Matz's 11-K gem
SAN FRANCISCO -- The last link of the Mets' rotation to prosper, Steven Matz, spent much of this season struggling through injuries and inconsistencies while the other members of the team's rotation -- Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, even Jason Vargas -- began thriving.
Matz has now apparently joined that group. Striking out a career-high 11, Matz fired seven innings of one-run ball for the second straight start on Saturday, taking a no-decision in the Mets' 2-1, 11-inning win over the Giants at AT&T Park.
"Pitching, just like hitting, can be contagious," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. "The more pitchers you have out there doing really good things, the better you're going to be, and you're going to be able to get on a roll. I think that's what you're seeing right now."
Dominant for much of the afternoon, Matz struck out three batters in each of the second and fourth innings, keeping his pitch count low despite all the strikeouts. His only damaging mistake occurred when he left a 2-1 sinker up in the strike zone against Evan Longoria, who hit it over the left-field wall to lead off the fourth.
Through seven innings, Matz had thrown just 93 pitches, but Callaway opted not to let him pitch into the eighth for the first time since 2016. Instead, Matz watched from the bench as the Mets and Giants traded zeros until the 11th inning, when Wilmer Flores led off with a double and Todd Frazier plated him on a sacrifice fly. That was the Mets' first run since Tomas Nido hit an RBI double off Giants starter Derek Holland in the fifth, and just their second in 20 innings in San Francisco.
Matz's performance was part of a greater run of success from Mets starters, who have delivered quality outings in 10 of their last 14 games. They hold a Major League-leading 1.67 ERA over that stretch.
"It's not often that I have everything going," Matz said. "Today, that was how I felt. I felt like I could command each pitch. That's really rare."
That nearly everyone in the rotation is grooving at the same time is no coincidence, says Callaway, who believes pitching coach Dave Eiland has made a significant difference in his starters' routines. That, in turn, has allowed the previously injury-prone Matz to stay healthy, after missing the past two Septembers due to elbow and shoulder issues.
"It's something I haven't done the past few years, so to be out there this time of year, and feeling healthy, and having some success, is huge," Matz said. "I'm going to try to build off it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Quick recovery: Following Longoria's leadoff homer in the fourth, Matz struck out the next three batters in succession, throwing 10 of his 12 pitches during that sequence for strikes. Matz whiffed the next batter, Nick Hundley, on a changeup below the strike zone, then raised Brandon Belt's eye level with a high slider. Finally, Matz threw three pitches past Hunter Pence, the last of them a curveball well below the zone.
Hundley credited Matz's ability to throw his breaking ball for strikes as the key to his success -- something the Giants' catcher recalled Matz was unable to do two weeks ago at Citi Field.
"When I'm going good, I can just get in a good rhythm and keep going," Matz said. "We had a good rhythm going."
Frazier has 10 RBIs in his last 10 games, and 20 in his last 22 games since Aug. 11. He leads the National League, and ranks second in the Majors behind Miguel Andujar, in RBIs over that stretch.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
An out away from recording his ninth save of the season, Robert Gsellman induced a soft pop to right off the bat of Austin Slater. Brandon Nimmo had just a 44-percent catch probability on the play, according to Statcast™ data, but raced over to make a diving, game-ending grab as his sunglasses dislodged from his face.
"He's always hustling," Callaway said. "He breaks off the bat and never loafs. He never thinks it's going to be in front of him. He goes as hard as he can until the play's over, and that's going to lead to more balls than it would otherwise."
HE SAID IT
"It's definitely the best I've felt. I just felt like I could do what I wanted with the baseball." -- Matz
Noah Syndergaard spent his week doing extra mechanical work between starts, hoping it translates into more consistent strike-zone command. Syndergaard will put his refinements to the test when he returns to the mound for Sunday's season finale at AT&T Park. Right-hander Chris Stratton is scheduled to pitch for the Giants in the 4:05 p.m. ET game.