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Matz struggles as Mets drop first game of '18

Lefty allows three runs with 89 pitches in four innings
MLB.com

NEW YORK -- Steven Matz said he felt great when he took the mound Sunday to try to lead the Mets to a season-opening three-game sweep of the Cardinals at Citi Field. But that feeling didn't translate to the results he wanted once the game began. Matz struggled with his control and gave up three runs in four innings as the Mets took their first loss of the year, 5-1.

Matz, who was making his first regular season start since undergoing left elbow surgery last August, limited the damage to one run apiece in the second, third and fourth innings. But his pitch count rose quickly after two walks in the opening frame, and he allowed a pair of solo homers -- one to Paul DeJong in the second and another to Yadier Molina, his second of the series, in the fourth -- before being pulled for a pinch-hitter.

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NEW YORK -- Steven Matz said he felt great when he took the mound Sunday to try to lead the Mets to a season-opening three-game sweep of the Cardinals at Citi Field. But that feeling didn't translate to the results he wanted once the game began. Matz struggled with his control and gave up three runs in four innings as the Mets took their first loss of the year, 5-1.

Matz, who was making his first regular season start since undergoing left elbow surgery last August, limited the damage to one run apiece in the second, third and fourth innings. But his pitch count rose quickly after two walks in the opening frame, and he allowed a pair of solo homers -- one to Paul DeJong in the second and another to Yadier Molina, his second of the series, in the fourth -- before being pulled for a pinch-hitter.

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Video: STL@NYM: Molina skies a solo homer to left-center

"He just couldn't get the ball over the plate consistently," said manager Mickey Callaway. "He wasn't finishing at times and it didn't really look like he had the confidence to throw it over."

Despite touching 95 mph early on, the 26-year-old left-hander found that his control was lacking. Both home runs he allowed came with two strikes, as did a third-inning RBI double by Marcell Ozuna.

Video: STL@NYM: Ozuna rips an RBI double for first Cards hit

"I was leaving the ball up and I wasn't executing pitches with two strikes," Matz said. "It starts with fastball command for me. When I don't have that going, it's going to be a grind out there."

By the time Matz got through the fourth, he had thrown 89 pitches and Callaway replaced him with pinch-hitter Adrian Gonzalez in the bottom half of the inning.

Matz leaned on another pitch, his changeup, to keep the Cardinals from breaking the game open.

"He used that changeup to kind of get him back down in the zone," catcher Kevin Plawecki said. "We used that to get back in counts and ultimately get some outs when we needed it."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Reality check: The Mets' offense went quiet Sunday after scoring 15 runs in the first two games of 2018. Their lone run off Cardinals right-hander Luke Weaver came on an RBI single by Amed Rosario in the second.

Video: STL@NYM: Rosario grounds an RBI single to right

The Mets finished with seven hits as Weaver lasted five innings and three relievers did the rest.

"Weaver did a good job today of keeping us off balance, keeping us off base," Plawecki said. "That's all there is to it. Sometimes you've just got to tip your cap and today wasn't our day offensively."

First shot: Four Mets relievers saw action Sunday for the first time in 2018: Paul Sewald, Jacob Rhame, Jerry Blevins and AJ Ramos. Sewald and Rhame each tossed two innings and allowed one run, with Sewald throwing 55 pitches -- four shy of his career high last season.

Sewald got Molina to ground into a double play with the bases loaded to hold St. Louis to one run in the fifth.

Video: STL@NYM: Mets turn two to escape a tight spot in 5th

"Our relievers did a good job coming in today and eating up a lot of innings," Callaway said. "Paulie [Sewald] threw quite a few pitches, but he battled through it."

QUOTABLE
"How would I describe that possibility? Possible." -- Callaway, when asked how he would describe the possibility of Michael Conforto returning to the Mets on Thursday. Conforto, who is recovering from left shoulder surgery, flew back to New York from Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Sunday.  More >

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Mets pitchers have recorded 35 strikeouts in the first three games of the season, the most in team history through three games. The previous record was 32 in 2005.

FROM THE TRAINER'S ROOM
Right-hander Anthony Swarzak said after Sunday's game that he would undergo a precautionary MRI Monday on his sore left oblique. Swarzak said the soreness has dissipated since exiting Saturday's game, but his status remains uncertain.

WHAT'S NEXT
Matt Harvey begins his quest for a comeback season as the Mets start a three-game series against the Phillies on Monday at Citi Field. First pitch is at 7:10 p.m. ET.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Aaron Leibowitz is a contributor to MLB.com who covered the Mets on Sunday.

New York Mets, Steven Matz