Matz retired two of his first three batters, but he allowed eight hits and one walk to the next 10 batters he faced. The Rockies tagged him for a four-spot in the opening frame before he could retire the side. The top of the order got to him again the next inning -- Charlie Blackmon doubled and DJ LeMahieu singled before Nolan Arenado unleashed a three-run home run to make it 7-0. Mark Reynolds then smoked a single, forcing Terry Collins out of the dugout to pull his starter before he could record an out.
At the request of Collins, pitching coach Dan Warthen looked at video in the Mets' clubhouse between innings for a quick diagnosis on why Matz struggled. When he returned, the verdict was that "everything was right down the middle."
"I don't care how good your stuff is," Collins said, "you can't do that in this league."
Matz delivered the same assessment after the game.
"It all happened so quick, to be honest," Matz said. "The balls were just over the heart of the plate, and they were able to get their barrels to it. I was giving them a chance with where I was missing."
Rather than expressing his displeasure in the dugout this time, Matz simply gazed out at the field.
"It's just not the way you write it up," Matz said. "It's frustrating, but I've got to flush it. I got another start coming up in five days, and I've got to prepare for that and try and learn from my mistakes here and just keep going."
Matz insisted his rough outing against the Cardinals carried no influence into Sunday. Still, Matz's sudden inconsistencies are disappointing for a Mets team trying to claw back into the playoff picture, especially with their injury-laden rotation.
Although Matz missed the first two months with an elbow injury, his return from the disabled list was a breath of fresh air for the Mets. At one point, he logged a 17-inning scoreless streak, and he was 2-1 with a 2.12 ERA in his first five starts before his slipup in St. Louis. He is now 2-3 with a 4.58 ERA.
Going forward, Collins said, it will be important for Matz to reassert his secondary pitches. On Sunday, Matz threw just eight sliders, although it was a pitch he relied on heavily when he first came back. He said the minimal use of the slider Sunday was because of something he saw in the scouting report against Colorado.
"It's something I may need to get back to, working that curveball and changeup more and trusting my stuff versus going to their scouting report and relying on that more," Matz said.
Chris Bumbaca is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York who covered the Mets on Sunday.