Matz seeking answers to puzzling rough stretch

After loss to Yanks, Mets left-hander is 0-6 with a 10.19 ERA in last 8 starts

August 18th, 2017

NEW YORK -- has tried throwing multiple bullpen sessions between starts, as has done with great success. He has tried skipping bullpen sessions altogether. Matz has commissioned hitting coaches Kevin Long and Pat Roessler to examine whether he is tipping pitches. He has dabbled in new drills with pitching coach Dan Warthen.

None of it has worked. None of it has given Matz the answers to why he has struggled so mightily over the past month, allowing seven more runs -- six earned -- in 3 1/3 innings Thursday during a 7-5 defeat to the Yankees. Over his last eight starts, Matz is 0-6 with a 10.19 ERA. Following Thursday's loss, manager Terry Collins said he and his staff will discuss skipping Matz's next start.

"I never want to find myself feeling lost, but it's not a good feeling," Matz said. "I haven't gone through a stretch like this before in my career. It's tough, but I never want to say that I'm lost. I don't want to quit like that."

Perhaps most puzzling to the Mets is the fact that at times, Matz has looked as strong as ever. In his first five starts of the season, coming off a two-month stint on the disabled list due to left elbow and forearm discomfort, Matz posted a 2.12 ERA. Even Thursday, after serving up 's three-run homer in the first inning, Matz settled down to pitch dominant innings in the second and third.

But when Matz returned for the fourth inning, he gave up four consecutive hits, the last of them plating another two runs. Once Matz hit with a pitch to load the bases, his night was through; he watched from the dugout as reliever allowed two of the three baserunners to score, tacking some more ugliness onto Matz's final line.

"I asked him after I took him out if he was physically OK," Collins said. "He said he was fine. So we've got to find some different answers and something that might work."

Prior to this season, the Mets' primary concern about Matz was just that -- health. Multiple elbow surgeries and various other ailments in his shoulder and lower body earned Matz the reputation of an injury-prone pitcher. But when healthy, Matz was effective, posting a career 13-8 record, 3.16 ERA and 3.98 strikeout-to-walk ratio heading into this season.

If Matz is ailing once more, he and the Mets are keeping it quiet, though Collins has mentioned multiple times that the young left-hander must learn to pitch through discomfort. If Matz is healthy, the problem is more difficult to define.

In either event, the Mets are at a crossroads with their former top Draft pick, now 26 years old. They don't know how Matz might serve them in 2018 any more than they do Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, or , all of whom have struggled through injuries this season. The situation may force the Mets to address the starting-pitching market this offseason, though their appetite for acquiring a frontline starter appears small. And quality free agents are generally unwilling to sign deals with teams that would have them compete for jobs in camp.

The Mets' best-case scenario would be for Matz to correct what ails him over the season's final six weeks, entering the offseason healthy and strong. Matz, for one, believes it can still happen.

"I want to think that I'm just one step away from where I need to be," Matz said, "and eventually it'll just click."